4 steps to gaining confidence as a public speaker

In most careers, at some point you’ll stand before a crowd—maybe six people, maybe 1,600—and have to deliver the goods. Own the moment, and make the most of this golden opportunity.

Speaking professionally is not something you can decide in favor of or against.

You don’t really have a choice. To realize your potential in the business world, you must improve your communication skills.

When someone asks how to get better at public speaking, I offer this quote by Elbert Hubbard:

The only way to learn to speak is to speak and speak, and speak and speak, and speak and speak and speak.

It’s true that the only way to become good at anything is by repetition, until it becomes second nature, but there are many things you can do to become more effective speaking in front of audiences.

The starting point is to pick a subject you really care about—something that has had an extraordinary impact on you and that you would like to share with others who could benefit from your knowledge.

With this, you have a springboard to propel you into your first public talk.

Prepare and fine-tune

The second part of public speaking is preparation. It’s not unusual to spend hours, days and even weeks preparing for a talk.

The third part is practicing and improving your presentation skills. If you have an audio recorder or, even better, a video camera, record yourself giving the talk from beginning to end. Then listen to it or watch it, and make notes on how you could make it better.

If you’re using a video camera, look into the camera and use the same facial expressions and gestures that you would if you were speaking directly to someone. Vigorously critique yourself. The more honest and objective you can be about how you come across, the faster you will build effective communication skills.

Practice makes perfect, and perfect practice makes it even more perfect. If you practice consistently, you will see your presentation skills improve dramatically.

Here are four exercises for building confidence:

1. Verbalize your speech. The most powerful words you can use to prepare yourself mentally for a speech, or for any event, are, “I like myself.” Before you get up to speak, repeat to yourself, ”I like myself! I like myself! I like myself!” These words help in raising your self-esteem and lowering your fears. The more you like yourself, the more confident you will feel.

2. Visualize your speaking success. All improvement in your outer performance begins with an improvement in your mental pictures. Envision yourself standing calm, confident, relaxed and smiling as you address your audience. See the audience leaning toward you, smiling and laughing, enjoying and hanging on every word.

3. Emotionalize the feeling of speaking. You can ”get the feeling” of already being a popular, successful speaker. When you are by yourself, create the feelings you’d have after delivering your ideal talk. Reinforce those feelings with the statement, ”I give a wonderful talk every time.”

4. Actualize your thoughts on public speaking. Here is an important discovery: Your subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between a real event and an event that you vividly imagine. If you visualize and replay a positive speaking experience 10 or 20 or 50 times in your mind, your subconscious mind records that you have just given 10 or 20 or 50 successful talks, all ending in standing ovations and happy audiences.

Brian Tracy is a speaker, author and success coach. A version of this post first appeared on Brian Tracy International.


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