We've launched a monthly Mastery Series to offer you top tips from our accomplished team and trainers. In this blog, specialist coach and speaking trainer, Mike Blissett, lends his top tips to become a confident public speaker.
Being a confident public speaker, whether your audience is small or large, is a great way to deliver your message, position yourself as a person of authority, and grow your business as a coach.
But how can you feel more confident as a public speaker, especially if right now confidence is the last thing you feel when you think about speaking to groups of people? Fear of public speaking is after all the number one greatest fear most people have. If that includes you, but you see the potential of what being a confident public speaker could do for you and your coaching business, then read on, this article is for you.
The following top 10 tips are taken from a model I created and use with my public speaking clients. The model is called The Confidence Matrix and is designed to help you feel more confident you will give a great talk.
Know your subject. The thing you’re going to talk about. If it’s related to your coach or NLP training, you’ll have a huge amount of material to help you prepare a great talk. Some speakers create vision or mood boards. Others spend time researching and cross-checking what they’re going to say for accuracy. While others profile their audience so they know exactly what to focus on delivering the most value. Prepare your talk, always!
Obvious, right? But here’s the thing, all the speakers, presenters and trainers you have ever heard, and that has ever impressed you, have spent time practising their presentation beforehand. They create notes, timelines, slides, even make recordings of themselves so they can look or listen back and critique…after all the camera never lies!
When we get nervous, our breathing gets shallow and we hyperventilate. When that happens the mind races, your palms get sweaty, and panic sets in. Slow, deep breathing helps. Actors and singers practise deep breathing as part of their training, and if you’re preparing for a talk, you should too. Spending 5-10 minutes focusing on slow, deep breathing as part of your rehearsal, and also before an event will massively improve your sense of calm and confidence.
Some coaches and NLP Practitioners talk about creating a ‘mental movie.’ Mental rehearsal is a technique widely used as part of a training programme for athletes, performers, and anyone involved in public speaking! Think of yourself as the director of your own mental movie…you’d be saying, ‘stand tall, breath deep, own your space, be confident.’ If something so simple as positive visualisation works for athletes and performers, then building into your public speaking programme .might just work for you, too.
High-Performance Coach, Brendon Burchard, suggests that we should ’keep the main thing, the main thing.’ So, when you’re working on your talk, the framework, slides, stories or whatever you’ll be including, stay focused! It’s all too easy, especially when we’re feeling nervous, to get sidetracked with something else, like checking email, updating social media, or calling a friend for a chat. Stay focused. When you’re working on your presentation, work on your presentation. Email, social media and all the other distractions will be there once you’ve finished, so you can keep up to date with them then!
It’s a natural human instinct, especially when deciding what you want to say in your talk, to include too much…and too much usually leads to anxiety and feeling nervous. The old phrase, ‘less is more,’ is much more likely to help you design a talk you feel confident about giving. I understand we try including too much because we want to add value, impress, and show the best of who we are, but whilst that’s usually too much for one talk. So, what’s your main point, central idea or message you want to get across in your talk and concentrate on that. Keep it simple.
7. Act ‘as if…’
In her TEDTalk, social psychologist Amy Cuddy shares research exploring what effect acting ‘as if’ actually has on the human body. Not to spoil the talk if you haven’t seen it (and you should), but the effects are measurable and massive. She suggests we should ‘act it until we become it,’ which for me underlines how this can be useful for you, at all points; before (in the preparation of your talk), during (giving your talk) and also after (more of that in a moment). Acting as if you are a confident public speaker, will accelerate your journey to becoming a confident public speaker.
Chances are when you give your talk, or even when you think about giving a talk, you feel a rush of energy, excitement, nerves (you fill in the word that works best for you), and chances are that feeling is actually a rush of adrenalin. It’s the ‘fight or flight’ hormone, designed to help you make quick decisions and be able to act on them immediately. Speakers, performers, athletes etc all say how they feel that rush of adrenalin, and repurpose it to give them absolute focus and the ability to do their best. As you prepare your talk, and even as you give it, remember to expect (and appreciate) that rush of adrenaline is going to help you give the best talk you can possibly give.
9. Fall Forward
This is a weird one because I’m going to ask you to expect that you might fail with your talk. No matter how much preparation you do, the reality is you’re human, you might forget your words, the next slide, the idea you wanted to share, but to also know if that does happen you’ll still be okay. Social Research Professor, Brene Brown talks about the power of vulnerability, and as a speaker, your willingness to speak, no matter what might happen during your presentation, will probably make you the most engaging, funny and authentic public speaker you can possibly be.
Capture your thoughts as you prepare, and also after you’ve delivered your talk is a great way to build your confidence as a public speaker. I’ve adapted a model from NLP called the Feedback Sandwich as a framework to do this:
Step 1: Write/list 3 things you did/do well in your talk. This could be in preparation, practising, delivery (after having given your talk). Keep in POSITIVE, and FACTUAL. This is important because you need the evidence - so keep it real!
Step 2: Write about ONE THING you could do ‘even better’ as you develop your talk. There are 2 aspects that make this step powerful, 1. Focus on one single thing (rather than a list of everything you think you’re at fault with), and 2. Use (write) the words ‘even better’ (or ‘even more’) as you describe the one thing you’d like to improve. This is powerful, simply because using the phrase ‘even better’ suggests you already did it pretty well the first time, and giving yourself such a positive suggestion helps build your confidence.
Step 3: Overall (the big picture or general impression) how you see yourself getting more confident as a public speaker (and again, keep it positive).
Finally, THE best way to build your confidence as a public speaker is to BE a public speaker. Take the opportunity to speak up and practice your skills whenever you get the chance because by speaking in public your confidence will rise.
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During my training at The Coaching Academy (TCA), I was told many times the importance of 'finding a niche'. I followed this advice, by drawing on my work as a Development worker in Africa, as well as 20 years managing businesses and developing teams, together with successfully running my own holiday cottage business to define my niche; activating individual and business potential.