The key to persuasion is confidence. Truly believing in yourself and what you are presenting to your audience is key for a successful presentation or speech. It is easier to build trust with an audience when you provide them with assurance and credibility. So, how do we find that confidence when speaking publicly?
The one subject you know the most about, the one you can embrace the best, is yourself. No one knows you the way you do (that’s why it is so easy for us to talk about ourselves). We need to adopt that idea into our speeches and presentations, and remember that when it comes time to deliver, it’s best to be yourself. This generates a lot of the confidence you need to sell not only yourself, but whatever product or idea you’re relaying to your audience.
There are also lot of nonverbal communication behaviors that emphasize confidence in your speech or presentation. You’ll find that it is easier to pronunciate, enunciate, make eye contact, use gestures, et cetera, in a way that supports the message you’re sending. These are all things that the audience takes note of, whether consciously or not.
I’m going to quickly break down some of these behaviors and give you some tips on how to improve upon each one.
- Pronunciation and Enunciation: Speak slow enough to where you are able to hit on each syllable of a word, allowing your audience to fully grasp what you’re saying. It helps if you show a small portion of your teeth when you are speaking. This makes you open your mouth just a little bit wider, allowing you to speak clearer and even have more projection.
- Making Eye Contact: Many of us have heard the old saying “The eyes are a window to a person’s soul.” You should remember this when delivering a speech. Maintaining an appropriate level of eye contact shows your audience that you have nothing to hide and that you have confidence in what you’re presenting. What do I mean by “an appropriate amount”? Keep eye contact as you would in a regular conversation you’d have with a friend, family member, or a peer. Don’t stare at them. Instead, look around the room at each person, or if the audience is too large, at each section. Avoid looking down or away, as that makes you look distracted and impinges on your ability to form a relationship with your audience.
- Gestures and Movement: Have you ever been to a speech or presentation where the speaker doesn’t move at all? How did that person make you feel about them or their topic? Probably not very good. He or she probably seemed awkward, and that’s because they were. It isn’t natural to not move while having a conversation. And the more passionate you are about a topic, it seems the more you feel the need to move. It helps express what you’re trying to say and, in some ways, your movements give character to the words you’re speaking. When you allow this to happen, and you allow your audience to see the passion you have for the topic, they are more drawn in to what you’re sharing with them and are more likely to respond to your call of action. Try moving around the stage, if possible. If you have a podium, remember to keep your gestures above your waist so your audience can see them. And remember to keep your actions and words in synch. For example, if you’re listing out points, gesture with your fingers indicating your first, second, and third points, and so on.
- Paralanguage: There is much more to a speech than the words. Paralanguage encompasses all of these things, such as rate, tone, and pitch. When you need to really press on a point, try slowing your rate so the audience catches every single word. If you’re excited about something, get a little louder so they can hear the excitement in you. And if you are going for a more serious feel, lower your pitch.
Confidence can sometimes be hidden by the physiological effects of nervousness and anxiety. In times that you see yourself struggling, take a look at some of the 60 Second Guru videos. There, you’ll find exercises such as “doing the penguin” that will get you stage-ready by loosening your muscles, opening your airways, and slowing your heart and respiration rate. Follow these tips one at a time, and you’ll gain the confidence you need to become more persuasive.
Get more tips for public speaking and presenting on this episode of Communication Nation’s Communication Training: Public Speaking and Speech Writing with your host, Jill Shiefelbein.
Written by Impromptu Guru Director of Operations Christina Miller.