Verbal communication skills are essential to the success of many careers, yet the fear of speaking in public is overwhelmingly common. No matter what position you hold in the workplace – manager, sales representative, or C-Suite – possessing the confidence to communicate your thoughts and ideas clearly is critical to how you are received by clients, customers, employees, and peers.
Contrary to popular belief, public speaking is not simply a verbal skill. Non-verbal communication cues, such as eye contact, gestures, posture or carriage, and enthusiasm, also have a significant impact on how your message is received by your audience. At Speechworks, we teach our trademarked framework, stylistic strategies, and strategic approach for delivering persuasive messages to empower leaders and professionals to elevate their speaking presence, connect with their listeners and transform their public speaking by developing their own authentic speaking style.
Being a great public speaker boils down to one key element: confidence.
First, let’s go ahead and acknowledge that being confident and looking confident are two different things. It is possible to feel confident about a presentation but still lose the audience if your non-verbal cues point to a lack of assurance. Conversely, you can also feel terrified about a presentation, and yet, still convey confidence and build trust with the audience if you’re serving up your message along with a few sides of intentional, poised non-verbal cues.
Although there are probably a thousand things you could do to level up your non-verbal communication, there are two that, without any doubt, will help you shine and look confident (even if you don’t feel it yet): Eye Contact and Energy.
Eye contact shows confidence, holds attention and builds trust. Making an effort to hold meaningful eye contact with your audience members opens the door to making a personal connection and increases the chances that your message will land with the audience and that your message will be remembered.
So, what does it mean to make good eye contact? There’s more involved than most people think. We’ve all heard the advice that you can fool your audience and fake eye contact by looking at the back of the room or at their foreheads. That’s terrible advice – and completely false. You’re not fooling anyone with that tactic.
Rather, good eye contact requires you to actually hold someone’s gaze for 3 to 5 seconds, or through a thought. To make that connection even better, you can use your whole body by actually turning to face an audience member and speaking directly to them.
Pauses, inflection, and tonality can all impact the delivery of a presentation. Even when answering a simple Q&A or leading an informal staff meeting, maintaining energy with your voice and speaking with intention can cue your audience to pay closer attention.
It’s ok to have silence. Did you know that pauses evoke confidence? Too many times, presenters or speakers worry about the silence and are quick to fill the space with filler words such as “um” or “like,” or to move on too quickly, smothering the opportunity for the audience to ask questions.
Practicing speaking aloud will provide you with auditory feedback and help you become more comfortable with silence and aware of your use of filler words.
Body language is an often overlooked element of public speaking. It is important to remember that your audience is soaking in your presence as well as your voice – from the moment you enter the room until the moment you leave. Developing natural comfort with a confident and commanding presence will emphasize the confidence of your words.
In a study, social psychologists found that holding a “power pose” can help people feel more powerful and confident. Standing tall and open, facing your audience, and using thoughtful gestures are all methods of powering up a presentation with body language that inspires confidence.
You can command a tone or a response from a simple facial expression. A quizzical eyebrow raise or a well-placed grin can elicit thought and laughter and keep your audience captivated. When we talk about a topic we are passionate about, our face and eyes tend to light up and emits positive energy. Bringing those bright and attentive facial expressions to each speaking engagement can help you share positivity and passion with your audience.
Have you ever heard the term “smize”? It means to smile with your eyes. Walk in with a strong presence – that shows you are excited to be there and you care about your topic – and smile with your eyes to ignite a spark.
As part of your preparation for a speaking engagement, practicing your facial expressions in a mirror can help you identify moments that require more facial energy and give you some self-awareness and perspective for your appearance.
Exaggerate your Energy
Many clients share with us that they are more serious at work because they want to be taken seriously. In taking on our “serious” business persona, we tend to fall flat. We all want to be taken seriously, but packing your personality away is actually counterproductive. Rather, allowing your personality to peek through your content helps you to connect with your audience in an authentic and engaging way. Exaggerating your facial expressions and body language will provide you with enough energy to keep others engaged and paying attention to what you are saying. The notion of exaggerating your body language sounds strange and feels uncomfortable at first – but with 40 years of experience – we know that the extra energy doesn’t come off as “over the top,” but rather evolves you into the less formal version of yourself, or how you might speak and act when among close friends. It is that gregarious energy that will help you stand out as a confident leader. Remember, how you look and how you feel are two different things.
The Key to Speaking Confidence
These tips can guide you toward successful public speaking, but confidence is ultimately found through rehearsal. Repeatedly saying your presentation and responses aloud will allow you to hear tonality and emphasis, and give you the opportunity to adjust elements of your presentation so that you are delivering. There is no substitute for practice, and it is not practice unless you are practicing your presentation aloud.
Join Us for a Workshop
The Speechworks Presentation Skills Workshop is structured to coach business leaders and professionals through the fundamentals of creating and delivering concise, confident messages across multiple fields. Participants gain skills that will prepare them to hold captivating and engaging presentations in both formal and informal environments.
See all of our workshops at https://speechworks.net/workshops/.
In addition to offering our speaking training and coaching in person at our Atlanta offices, we can also travel to your location, as well as offer virtual programs. All workshops can be tailored to fit the specific needs and goals of your organization.
We serve clients locally, nationally, and globally, impacting people and businesses all over the world. Contact us today to learn more about improving your company’s communication and develop the skills to speak with confidence.