Speak with confidence and others will follow. Although I had plenty of situations that required public speaking, it always gave me a slight pause. It wasn’t something that came completely naturally.
As a leader, you’ll often be in a position where you have to speak with others.
Maybe as the head of your team, you’ll have to lead a weekly meeting or inspire your team members to get the job done. Or, in your role as leader, maybe you’ll have to address your entire division, or a large group of fellow leaders or co-workers. You might even end up standing in front of a room of people and giving a motivational speech or sharing some insight you learned through your experiences as a leader.
Whether speaking in public or dealing with small groups of people, the single most important tool in your arsenal is confidence. If you can communicate confidently, you’ll find your message gets across far more clearly.
Here are some ways you can start training yourself to feel that confidence so you’ll be able to speak with anyone, anytime, anywhere:
Stand With Confidence
Before you ever start speaking, you’ve already communicated a whole lot to the people around you through your body language.
Non-verbal communication makes up as much as 80% of what we communicate to others. The words we say are only a fraction of what other people understand. That makes body language and posture VERY important.
Stand with confidence: lift your head up, with your chin slightly elevated so you’re looking straight at people; keep your eyes forward, throw your shoulders back to straighten your spine, and plant your feet firmly in a stance slightly wider than shoulder width. When walking, don’t shuffle your feet and take small steps, but take long, confident strides and walk with purpose.
This stance and way of moving will not only help you feel more confident; it will make others see you as someone worth paying attention to, worthy of respect. You’ll already have won them over on a subconscious level thanks to your body language—all before you’ve ever opened your mouth to speak.
Choose Your Words Wisely
Don’t be the kind of person who snaps off remarks or “zingers” because you think being sarcastic and witty make you look cool. Yes, they may give off that “cool”, but that’s not what you want. Your goal is to earn your followers’ trust and inspire confidence.
To do that, take your time when you speak. Give yourself a second or two to evaluate what you’re going to say, and don’t be afraid to be silent for a moment when considering your words. That momentary pause will actually communicate thoughtfulness to the people you’re speaking to, and it will make them aware how aware you are of your words. They will come to respect that because they understand that you are choosing your words with care.
Never walk into a room or an important conversation with your mind a total blank. Always be ready to have something to say or ask, on any topic.
If you’re walking into a meeting with a new client, research that client so you know enough about them to ask a few questions. If you’re going to a work meeting, prepare your information so you can share at least some of it without looking at your notes. If you’re meeting a friend for drinks, have a few topics of conversation prepared ahead of time.
It may sound silly—bordering on controlling—but it’s the best way to be sure you’re always ready. Being unprepared can shake your confidence and set you at a disadvantage, which will make it harder for you to speak easily and comfortably. Taking a few minutes to prepare ahead of time can go a long way toward helping you speak with confidence no matter who you’re talking to.
Speak With Confidence And Talk Slower
Resist the urge to speed up. Your brain might be thinking fast and your tongue can definitely form the words faster, but a slower rate of conversation gives you time to be deliberate with your words and form rational statements and arguments without just going “off the cuff”.
A fast rate of conversation can come off like you’re lecturing, or like you’re rushing to get through an overload of information quickly. If you slow down your conversation speed just a fraction, it will make the whole thing feel a lot more relaxed, almost casual. Try to shoot for 190 words per minute, a leisurely pace of conversation that will feel like you’re sitting and talking over a pleasant meal.
Cut the Fluff
If you’re prone to using filler words—“Umm”, “Well”, “I mean”, “you know”, or countless others—you’re revealing a lack of confidence in what you’re saying. Filler words communicate that you’re stalling for time to collect your thoughts, showing that you’re unprepared.
To sound confident, cut all this verbal fluff from your vocabulary. If you need time to think, slow down your rate of talking and pause between sentences. You’ll sound far more intelligent if you don’t use these verbal crutches, and you’ll feel more confident, too.
It’s a simple thing, but it can have a huge effect on the listener!
When you smile, you convey friendliness, genuine openness, honesty, and an approachable demeanor. People will instinctively like and respond positively to you because you’re smiling as you speak.
Obviously you shouldn’t smile when talking about something serious or somber, but if you’re trying to inspire or encourage people, make sure they hear that smile in your voice. It will make a world of difference to them and will help them feel more positive about not only what you’re saying, but about you. It will lift their spirits, improve their mood, and make them more likely to smile back.
You don’t have to smile every second of your talk, but throw in a joke, a friendly smile, or a grin here and there. It will go a long way toward bonding you with whoever you’re speaking to.