September 19, 2018

Public Speaking 101: C is for Confidence

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Confidence is a key tool for public speaking success. The good news is that it can be learned. As Garvey said, with confidence you have won the race even before you have started. So believe in yourself – you can do it!

Pan-Africanist leader Marcus Garvey once said “If you haven't confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life. With confidence, you have won even before you have started.” His observation is very true and especially so in the area of public speaking.

How do you win the game of public speaking even before you open your mouth to utter your very first word?

14. Work on your skills

Confidence refers to a feeling of self-assurance arising from an appreciation of your own abilities or qualities. You will only be confident in your skills if you know you can perform at a top level. This means confidence is related to your technical ability.

Public speaking involves mastery of several skills – breath control, clear pronunciation, elimination of filler words (“erm”, “you know”), capturing your audience's attention and many more competences. Take as many classes as you can either online or offline so you can develop mastery and by extension build your confidence in the technical aspects of public speaking.

15. Repeat those affirmations

Confidence also is the feeling or belief that you can have faith in or rely on someone or something. Why is this important for you as a public speaker? Look at it this way. If you do not believe in yourself, why should you expect any better from your audience? So believe in yourself.

Repeating positive affirmations is a good way to develop confidence in yourself. Here are a few you can use:

“I am an engaging speaker.”
“I connect positively with those who listen to me.”
“I give interesting talks which inform and educate people.”

16. Talk about what you know

Confidence can also mean the state of feeling certain about the truth of something. It is directly linked to the content of your talk.

One sure way to develop confidence is to restrict yourself to subjects you know a great deal about. There is a reason why the first essay pupils write in primary school is often titled ‘Myself’. Without much prompting you can write or speak knowledgably and with self-assurance about the person you know best - yourself.

A few years ago, I challenged a young student who had never given a public talk before to stand in front of the class with minimal preparation and talk about his hobby for ten minutes. He spoke for 15 minutes about his 10-year love affair with the bass guitar.

Another student who had never spoken before in public was able to reduce the class to tears as she recounted a moving story of how she nursed her father till he passed away.

How did they do it? They spoke on topics about which they had intimate knowledge. That gave them the confidence to forget they had never spoken in public before.

Refuse to accept any speaking engagements outside your domain and only talk about things you know.