By Sandy Eifion-Jones, Toastmasters International
Having, and projecting, confidence is probably the single most important aspect to get right when delivering a speech or presentation.
Here are my top tips to help you build your confidence when delivering a talk:
1. Imagine yourself
If you are concerned your confidence will falter then mentally ‘role play’ your way into the scenario several times, beforehand.
Close your eyes, visualise yourself in front of your audience. Let the words run through your mind. Envisage how good you will sound, in front of an appreciative audience as they engage with you.
Watch yourself delivering your best presentation, calm and in control. Avoid speaking out loud - just let your mind do the work.
When you get out there for real, you will have visited the place so often in your mind, it won’t feel so intimidating.
2. Stand and deliver
Stand for a few seconds and wait until the audience settles and you gain their full attention. This is your time and you’re already communicating this to the audience.
You are now in control, not your nerves or your audience. When you begin in control, you are likely to stay in control; you will also see the effect it has on your audience as they prepare to listen to you.
3. Leading the way
When you stand up to speak and it suddenly hits you that your confidence has evaporated, what can you do?
Remember your audience have come to hear you because they want you to lead them and enrich their knowledge. They’ve come to learn something new, be inspired or entertained. You are the person who has the answer to their problem.
So think: ‘What can I give these people, how can I help them?’ They will be looking to you to help them. What will they – and you – lose, if you don’t speak to them? What will they – and you – gain, if you do?
4. Winning the audience
How you look, feel and dress has a direct effect on both the way you project yourself and how the audience perceives you, and relates to your topic.
Your image must establish a rapport with your audience and help them to feel you’re ‘one of them’. Are you delivering a keynote or business presentation? How will the attendees be dressed? Formal, smart casual or even jeans?
Your image should reflect the occasion. It should be appropriate to both the speech theme and the audience.
5. Meet and greet
If possible arrive before any guests. As people come through the door, greet each one personally. You don’t have to spend ages talking – just be there to shake hands, smile and say hello.
Your audience will appreciate that you are already one of them and they will instantly warm to you as you begin your talk because they have already ‘met’ you.
In the same way, you will feel your confidence rise because you will have shaken hands, broken the ice and seen that they are thoroughly nice people, ready to listen to what you have to say.
6. Face the crowd
When you rehearse at home cut out a selection of faces from magazines or newspapers, including some famous ones. Attach blue tack and stick them around the room. This is your ‘audience’ and you can use their faces to practise eye contact.
Alternatively switch the TV on to a news channel and turn down the volume. Most newscasters read from an autocue and they will have direct eye contact with you. Now practice giving your presentation to the television as they look at you.
Maintaining good eye contact is one of the golden rules to boosting your confidence when speaking in public.
By following these six tips you can build your confidence when giving a talk and ensure you deliver a great presentation without being overtaken by nerves.