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It is estimated that up to 77% of the population experiences some level of anxiety about public speaking. For some people, this can even manifest as glossophobia, a type of social phobia specifically related to public speaking.
Regardless of the severity of your fear of public speaking, there’s no denying that a lack of confidence can negatively impact your presentation skills. Since many careers require some level of public speaking, finding ways to boost your confidence can go a long way in how you present yourself and how you are perceived by others.
Here are five insider tips to boost your confidence as a speaker:
See also: How to become a confident public speaker
1. Practice makes perfect
“Practice makes perfect” may be a cliche, but there’s no denying that getting comfortable with your presentation can boost your confidence significantly. You can rehearse your speech aloud at home or even while commuting to work to improve the natural flow of your speaking.
Of course, practicing is even more effective when you practice every aspect of your presentation—from using visual aids to the body language you portray while standing and speaking. Some people even tape themselves practicing so they can identify issues with their facial expressions, tone, and body language that make them seem nervous or unprepared.
Some speakers weave personal stories into their speech because it’s unique content that you’ve already kind of practiced. First you learned the story by living it, and then you “practiced” it by repeating it in your head. Using stories can reduce the pressure that speakers feel to “perform”. like dr Chiagozie Fawole, founder of SavvyDocs, says in a recent blog post, “You are the expert on your story. She continues: “Tell stories that show what you say. When you tie a point you make to a story you experienced, you get the message across, more people remember it, and you can feel relaxed as you tell it.”
Remember, if you appear confident when you speak, your audience won’t know you’re nervous. Even relatively simple aspects of body language, like smiling or making eye contact with bystanders, can help instill confidence. Be sure to practice these as part of your preparations.
2. Manage your nerves
It’s perfectly normal to feel nervous before speaking, no matter how much practice you have. A certain level of nervousness can actually be beneficial as it will help you appear excited and focus more easily on your presentation. But if you let your nerves run wild, you can end up losing focus and having a harder time getting your message across.
Before your speech, consider practicing controlled breathing or another mindfulness exercise to maximize your focus and relieve some of that nervous tension. Exercising earlier in the day can also help reduce stress by releasing endorphins and improving mood.
On the day of your presentation, pay attention to what you put into your body. Alcohol, caffeine, sugary drinks, and processed foods contain substances that can increase your stress and anxiety. On the other hand, foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, and other nutrients can actually reduce stress.
See also: Does public speaking make you nervous? Here are 10 secrets to help you do it like a pro.
3. Pause and speak slowly
Nervousness and anxiety have been found to cause people to speak too quickly, causing their speech to be mumbled or mumbled. While speaking quickly can help you “get the job done” with your public speaking sooner, it can come at the expense of a truly effective presentation.
If you are nervous, make a conscious effort to slow down your speech. Even if it feels too slow for you, it often results in a better experience for your listeners. One way to deal with nervousness and maintain a good speaking rate is to pause and breathe at strategic points during your presentation. Taking a deep breath can help you mentally reset and focus.
Pauses at the end of important sections of your presentation or after asking a question give your audience time to think about what you said. This can also help you break the habit of using “fillers” like “um” or “ah” that we often say when we’re nervous.
4. Focus on the positive
The time after the presentation should be used for self-reflection. While you’re likely to make mistakes, that shouldn’t be the focus of your thoughts. This could cause you to lose confidence, making you even more nervous the next time you need to speak in public.
Instead, try to acknowledge and focus on what you did well. Make a list of what went right during your presentation. If someone compliments you, note that as well. Making a list of the positives while also thinking about what you can do better next time will be a much better motivator to prepare for your next public speaking.
5. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help
Glossophobia is a serious social phobia that can cause problems at work or in other settings, even leading to physical symptoms such as difficulty breathing or nausea. Some level of professional intervention may be required for individuals with severe levels of this social phobia.
This phobia is often treated with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), sometimes in conjunction with medication. CBT primarily focuses on positive self-talk and confronting your fear in a safe environment with the help of a licensed professional. Participating in talk groups can also provide a safe space to improve your skills and overcome your fears.
See also: 5 tips to feel more confident when speaking in public
Even if you still feel a little nervous when you have to speak in public, implementing these tips can go a long way to improving your confidence and ability to get your message across effectively. And as you continually project confidence, your inner confidence will grow.
Whether you’re pitching to an investor or needing to make a presentation to board members, improving your public speaking skills will become an asset throughout your career.