Being Confident At Public Speaking: The Three Things You Need To Know
by Andrea Pacini —
Many business leaders and professionals wrongly believe that being confident at public speaking comes naturally to some people. Perhaps they are born with confidence?
Or they think that to become more confident at presenting they simply need to improve their delivery skills and work on things like eye contact, body language and vocal delivery. These things are all important but there is so much more to it.
As a result, most untrained business leaders don’t feel confident presenting at all.
Over the years I’ve heard all sorts of reasons why people don’t like presenting. For example:
- “I don’t like to be the front man”
- “I get very nervous when presenting”
- “I have an internal panic before a presentation”
- “I hate webinars”
- “I’m petrified by the idea of having to sell something during a presentation”
- “Presenting makes me feel out of my comfort zone”
Perhaps some of those thoughts have come into your head before a presentation?
Well don’t worry. Everybody gets nervous, including me. It’s perfectly natural. We all have a moment of self-doubt and a rush of adrenaline before a presentation. Every presentation requires people to sell something – even if it’s themselves.
So how can you change your thinking and gain some genuine confidence? Let’s look at where confidence comes from.
People Are Not Born With Confidence…It Grows
Confidence is not something you either have or don’t have. It’s not something you search for. It’s something you develop. It comes from the actions you take and the choices you make.
Your inherent ability to speak in public is not what gives confidence. It’s based on your belief that you can succeed at speaking in public.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about blind self-belief. You can reinforce your beliefs (and your behaviours as a result) by taking consistent action. By taking small risks each time you present you will get better and better. That will allow real deep confidence in yourself to develop.
In 1986 Queen gave their monumental concert at Wembley Stadium in front of 72,000 people. It has gone down in rock music history as one of the greatest performances of all time.
Even a band fronted by Freddie Mercury couldn’t have done that at the start of their career. Queen had been touring for over 15 years by that point. At one gig at Bedford College in 1972 they played to just six people.
The same process should apply to your presentations. You might not end up at Wembley Stadium but you can improve and build confidence with every presentation!
Three Essential Ingredients For Confident Presenting
If you want to become a confident presenter, who has absolute faith in your content and in your ability to deliver it, you need three things:
- The ability to develop a simple and clear message
It requires proper preparation to communicate ideas (which might be complex or technical) in a simple and clear way. There are practical principles to follow in order to:
- Simplify your message and make it relevant to the audience
- Develop a clear and engaging storyline that grabs the audience’s attention
- Deliver your message comfortably and convincingly
If you do, your audience will be engaged, understand your message and take action.
- A proven process
When you follow a proven process, you will naturally feel confident. At Ideas on Stage we recommend a five-step process which will help you to deliver effective presentations and build confidence. You can read more about the process here in a previous article. We encourage people to do some analysis of your audience, brainstorm ideas, create a storyline, map out your slides and then rehearse repeatedly. With the right process you will feel ready to connect with your audience and presenting becomes exciting.
- The ability to use presentations to grab important opportunities
You need to be specific and strategic about the steps you want your audience to take, following your presentation. With the right techniques, you can do that in a non-salesy and elegant way. If you apply this method you will make more sales, win more deals and grow your business. You also gain credibility as a leader and improve the image of your company.
I previously worked with Ciaran O’Donnell who is a Finance Director for start-ups and early-stage businesses who had been named CFO of the Year at the British Accountancy Awards. Ciaran was already a good speaker but wanted to get more comfortable in front of larger audiences. He said he wanted to become more confident and polished and felt he was never going to nail this on his own.
We worked together for four weeks to equip him with tools which would allow him to take his presentation skills to the next level. The two areas we focused on were his ability to develop a captivating message and how to deliver his message comfortably and convincingly. During rehearsals we focused on what he needed to practise. Ciaran made very quick progress and his presentations became refreshing and disruptive.
Ciaran felt that he grew massively in confidence by becoming better organised. He learnt how to create a better message centred around the audience and had a much better plan in place.
Everything came together really well for Ciaran. Seeing how quickly he had improved, it felt to him almost bizarre he was able to deliver a presentation of such a high standard.
Confidence Can Be Learned
Many leaders and professionals wish they were natural communicators and feel they should be. The fact is you don’t. Presenting is not a natural thing to do. Standing up in front of an audience (on stage or online) takes everyone outside their comfort zone. But you can develop your skills and your confidence to make it look natural.
The latest research into human development has shown that the brain can be rewired. We can learn new behaviour and change our thought patterns at any age. Even people with the greatest self doubt can build confidence if they are determined to do so.
By taking small steps, and pushing our boundaries to take risks we can grow in confidence.
The two things you can do to work on confidence are:
- Take any opportunity to practise your presentation skills
The more you present, the better you get at it. It’s like learning how to play an instrument or how to play a new sport. Practice makes a difference.
- Practise your presenting the right way and learn from others
You will make progress more quickly if you lay down the foundations of effective presenting from the start. This instils good practice and will help to develop confidence the right way. If you want to learn how to play the violin but you don’t lay down strong foundations at the start (the correct fingering and technique) it doesn’t matter how much you practise. Without getting the basics right you will just be reinforcing bad technique and will make much slower progress.
Many business leaders do themselves down and wrongly believe that other leaders have natural confidence in public speaking when they don’t. Confidence is something which can be developed.
If you take some simple steps and push yourself every time you do a presentation you will improve and your confidence will soar.
You must keep your message simple. You must follow a proven process each time. You must be strategic about what steps you want your audience to take afterwards.
Take any opportunity you can to rehearse and practise presenting. However, you must do this the right way so you don’t reinforce bad habits.
Presenting and public speaking are key tools in growing your business, increasing your influence and making an impact. Without confidence to do this well you will achieve less. With confidence you can achieve anything you want.
If this article resonates with you and has helped you, please offer some feedback. If you have colleagues or friends who might benefit from the ideas please share the article.
If you want to become a more confident presenter, take the Confident Presenter Scorecard. Answer simple Yes/No questions, get an instant score plus suggestions for improvement. It takes less than 3 minutes. Once you complete the scorecard, you’ll receive a free pdf copy of my best-selling book Confident Presenter.