You've prepared the perfect presentation. Your slides are eye-catching, and your flawless introduction is sure to capture the attention of the audience. You've rehearsed for the big day more times than you can count, and that day is finally here. As you walk up to the podium to give your spectacular speech, you can feel your heart racing. Your palms are sweaty, and suddenly your throat is extremely dry. As you open your mouth to speak, what comes out is barely a creaky whisper. What happened?! We’ve all been there, right? At some point or another, most people experience nervousness, anxiety, and a general fear of public speaking. It is completely natural to get nervous before a public speaking event, especially for those who have a genuine fear of public speaking. If you are an experienced public speaker, maybe these symptoms have faded, or at least you’ve learned how to manage them. But for some, this type of physical response to public speaking stems from a lack of confidence.
So what is a public speaker to do? Though true confidence comes from within, I recommend an “outside-in” approach to novice public speakers until you are able to build up that natural inner confidence. “Outside-in” simply means that you are going to have the outward appearance of confidence, even if you do not feel confident on the inside. Did you know that the majority of your message is not being communicated by what you say, but rather by how you say it. So as you exude confidence to the audience through your body language and voice, you will begin to transform those inner feelings of fear and anxiety that have prevented you from being the confident speaker you were born to be.
Here are three quick and easy ways to boost confidence by using this “outside-in” approach.
1. Perfect your posture. It all starts with your stance. Stand up tall with your shoulders down and back. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, and your head should be looking straight ahead. Looking up also enables you to make eye-contact with the audience. So be sure to look at the audience, and not your notes or slides (unless you need to glance at them periodically).
2. Project your voice. Have you ever had an audience complain that you were speaking too loud? Probably not! Usually people complain when the speaker is not loud enough. Nothing says I lack confidence more than someone who is soft-spoken. So take a deep breath, using your diaphragm, and as you exhale, push your voice to the back of the room. Don’t yell, but speak loud enough so everyone in the room can hear you. Afterall, you have something very important to share, and your audience really wants to hear it.
3. Use your hands. Let your hands be your ally. Instead of folding your arms or fidgeting in a nervous manner, use hand gestures to your advantage. You can periodically point to the screen if you are using slides, or use your hands to emphasize action or descriptive words. You do not need to use gestures throughout the entire presentation, and your hands should be relaxed at your sides in between gestures.