Public Speaking: A Proven Process to Build Your Confidence

by Andrea Pacini

It’s easier than you think to improve your confidence when presenting or public speaking. The more prepared and structured your approach, the more confident you will be.

Most business leaders don’t follow any sort of organised process when preparing a presentation. Keen to get started, they launch into things and hope for the best. We’ve all seen the person who decides to wing it or who turns up with chaotic notes.

People who deliver presentations which lack structure:

  • Communicate their message badly
  • Can’t sense if their message is landing with the audience
  • Risk losing the audience

This creates frustration for the speaker who risks missing out on important opportunities. In turn, this leads to insecurity and they lose faith in their ability to deliver powerful presentations. It’s like a vicious circle: the more this happens, the more frustration and the more insecurity.

To avoid getting trapped into that negative cycle, it’s very important to prepare and plan.

Put a structure in place

If you want to feel confident in your content and in your ability to deliver it, you must follow a structured process.

Confidence does not come from belief in yourself. It’s about having confidence in what you are saying, because you have put a great deal of thought into it in advance.

Real confidence is built on strong foundations, not blind self-belief.

Lee Warren in The Busy Person’s Guide To Great Presenting explains that confidence comes from three things:

  • Knowing your audience
  • Knowing your message
  • Being prepared

Before you even start planning a presentation, ask yourself who the audience will be? What do you want to communicate to them? What actions do you want them to take after the presentation?

Having established who the audience is, you can think clearly about your message and work on what you want to say.

If you are well prepared, and follow a clear process, you will have real confidence. Your confidence on the day you come to do the presentation will be genuine and deep.

Success in public speaking depends on the process you follow, not on how hard you try. Confidence comes from the process.

I recently worked with Cam Beaudoin, founder of The A11y Coder. He is an expert on Digital Accessibility, which, by his own admission, can be a dry subject. He was looking to improve his presentation skills.

Cam is a naturally charismatic guy but he came to us because he was giving ‘chaotic presentations’ too often (his own words).

We helped him to put together a framework which he now uses whenever he is building and getting ready for a presentation. It has freed Cam up to focus on the message and on delivering it in his own style — without so much worry.

What Cam came to realise was that creating and delivering an effective presentation does not happen by chance. Even the greatest communicator in the world still needs material to work with and will have worked hard to prepare it.

The most creative presentations come from process and planning. When you have structures in place, it gives you the building blocks to make more creative presentations.

As long ago as 1926 Graham Wallas, co-founder of the London School of Economics, wrote a seminal work about the creative process called The Art of Thought. In it, he outlined a four step process for creativity:

  • Preparation. The stage during which the problem is investigated
  • Incubation. When you allow ideas to brew unconsciously
  • Illumination. When the ‘happy idea’ surfaces
  • Verification. When you go back to work on the idea further.

Our proven five step process

At Ideas on Stage we have helped thousands of clients to improve their public speaking since 2010, using a well-established five-step process.

If you want to improve your confidence in public speaking and presenting, try following these strategies.

  1. FOUNDATION: Ask yourself some questions about your audience and their needs. What is the context of the presentation?

  2. IDEATION: Take time to brainstorm and develop your key messages. What do you want your audience to know, feel and do after your presentation?

  3. CREATION: Now it’s time to build a clear and engaging storyline. The simplest and most effective presentation storyline begins with a strong introduction that catches the audience’s attention, develops three key messages, then concludes with a summary and a call to action. Make it clear to the audience what your point was and why they should care about it.

  4. ILLUSTRATION: Build in some simple and effective visual aids that support your messages. Avoid the dreaded Death by PowerPoint. Keep your slides simple and visual. People can’t read and listen at the same time.

  5. CONNECTION: Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. With your presentation mapped out and prepared, go over it a few times. This way you will be able to present naturally, connect with your audience and deliver authentically.

Process

Get your priorities right

With a presentation looming, the worst thing you can do is feel you don’t have time to prepare — and risk skipping our five stages.

Rushing into a presentation and cutting corners will end badly and knock your confidence.

Think you lack time to go through this process? Think twice. You don’t lack time, you lack priorities.

One of my previous clients was Patrick Tyrance Jr, a Harvard-trained Orthopaedic Surgeon and Entrepreneur. He is a very busy man with demands on his time. We worked together to refine his public speaking skills and create a presentation about a new business. Much of our work was about correct preparation.

After we worked together, Patrick shared a great analogy. He explained that, as a surgeon, he always goes through any procedure in his mind before he even gets to the hospital. That way, by the time he arrives, he is already prepared and can remain calm for the procedure.

His work as a surgeon is more important than any speech. But it’s fascinating that he drew those parallels — and had not himself recognised the parallels and the importance of preparing for a presentation in the same way.

In summary

A powerful presentation and a confident delivery will not come by chance. Even if you are under time pressure to deliver a speech you must still prepare properly. The better your preparation, the better job you will do.

Real confidence doesn’t come from self-belief, it comes from adequate preparation — which anyone can learn.

If you take the time to follow the process you will reap the benefits. You will feel more in control when presenting and you will be able to relax and enjoy it. You will come across as confident to your audience.

The five-step process can be applied to many different scenarios — whether it’s a new business pitch, a sales presentation, an investor pitch or a leadership speech. The plan works just as well for a presentation in person or on-line.

Get properly prepared and you will find that presenting becomes exciting not daunting.

Feedback

If this article has helped you, I would appreciate any feedback. Please get in touch or share the article with any colleagues or friends who might benefit from the ideas.

If you want to improve your presentation skills further try out the Confident Presenter Scorecard.

After answering a series of simple questions with yes or no answers you’ll get an instant score plus suggestions for improvement. It takes less than 3 minutes. Once you complete the scorecard, you’ll also get a free pdf copy of our best-selling book Business Presentation Revolution.