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Public Speaking: The first steps to become a con­fi­dent speaker

Mar 22, 2023 | Public Speaking

There will come the time when we have to speak in front of other people. When all eyes are on us. And everyone is lis­tening intensely to what comes out of our mouths.

If you are like many others, the pos­sible image of you speaking in front of a group of people might cause deep stress. It might be because you worry that you sud­denly lose the ability to speak. That you mumble, and most of all that your audi­ence will laugh at you or judge you for your bad performance.

To pre­pare for these sit­u­a­tions, many people decide to take pre­cau­tions. They read books about public speaking, watch talks, visit sem­i­nars and even become mem­bers in public speaking clubs like Toast­mas­ters International.

If you want to pre­pare for these sit­u­a­tions as well and want to develop more con­fi­dence speaking in front of other people, here are 3 tips for the begin­ning of your public speaking career!

Create a safe environment

We can read books on public speaking and rhetoric all day long, but at some day we have to prac­tice it. Theory gives a great foun­da­tion, but does not replace the harsh reality. I would even go that far to say that while you prac­tice over and over again, you are auto­mat­i­cally writing your very own book on public speaking. Every person is dif­ferent and han­dles the sit­u­a­tion therefor differently.

In order to prac­tice, you need a safe envi­ron­ment. Where you can learn more about your­self and are where you don’t get trau­ma­tizing feed­back just because you left your com­fort zone once. Try to start as safe as pos­sible and suc­ces­sively claim once seen unsafe ter­ri­to­ries now your own.

For example, you can start with just speaking for your­self in your room. Pull some videos showing audi­ences looking at you onto your screen and speak to pixels. You might be laughing at this idea, but even this seem­ingly simple exer­cise can pro­duce stress. I prac­tice my speeches and work­shops the same way. An inter­esting learning was that my per­fec­tionism is a much harder critic than my audi­ence. Try to prac­tice both, pre­pared speeches and impromptu speeches as well. I have devel­oped a tool called STAGE TOPICS that sup­ports you with prac­ticing impromptu speeches at home. Give it a try!

After feeling com­fort­able enough speaking for your­self, it is now time to expand your com­fort zone a little. Ask your friends to be your audi­ence and to give honest feed­back. Over the course of your journey to become a con­fi­dent speaker, you will learn what feed­back is rel­e­vant to you and when to kindly say thanks. In the begin­ning, you might feel the urge to work on every­thing another person points out. Don’t put that pres­sure on your­self. Feed­back is always highly sub­jec­tive and might differ a lot from person to person.

When your heart does not sud­denly stop while speaking in front of your friends now, it might be a good idea to think about expanding your audi­ence. I can’t rec­om­mend enough what a great learning expe­ri­ence Toast­mas­ters Inter­na­tional is. These clubs are almost in every country and bigger city, and there are many people wanting to get more con­fi­dent speakers. Spe­cial training pro­grams and amazing feed­back speeches by the club mem­bers are part of every club meeting. You come because of get­ting better at speaking and stay because of the people. In my view, this is a per­fect envi­ron­ment to exper­i­ment and make mis­takes that will pre­pare you for every­thing the cruel busi­ness world will face you with.

Appre­ciate your audience

Many people think that they have to use stun­ning ges­tures, elo­quent lan­guage or mind-blowing dra­maturgy to give a great speech and to be liked. No. The key to suc­cess in my view is to appre­ciate your audi­ence. This does not mean to show a slide with “Thank you for your atten­tion!” at the end of your speech or pre­sen­ta­tion. Quite the oppo­site, in fact.

Atten­tion is one of the most valu­able resources that we human beings have to offer. Usu­ally your audi­ence is willing to grant you their atten­tion. They are pri­or­i­tizing what­ever you might have to say over every­thing else that cur­rently takes up space in their minds. Wow! Isn’t that an immense burden on every speaker? Unfor­tu­nately, this gift is not always appre­ci­ated as it should. If you develop an atti­tude to appre­ciate your audi­ence, your speeches and pre­sen­ta­tions are built on the best foun­da­tion possible.

This is because every design deci­sion you are making is made with that appre­ci­a­tion in mind. Your audi­ence will feel it and will be grateful for it.

Embrace mis­takes

One of the best expe­ri­ences I had on stage was when I failed. I don’t want to say, that I don’t like to be flut­tered with com­pli­ments, but in the end it is the push­backs that make us rethink our cur­rent path we are on.

Like the one time I was failing hor­ribly at a speaking con­test because I overused sym­bolism in my speech. Everyone in the audi­ence came to the con­test after their 8 hours working shift and just wanted to relax and have a great time. No one wanted to listen to a speech where you have to trans­late mental con­cepts and sym­bols and create the speeches mes­sage on their own. In a lan­guage that is not their mother tongue. The audi­ences’ response was depressing. But in the end turned out to be exactly the response I needed at the time.

Imagine you do every­thing in exactly the way pro­posed in public speaking books or blog posts like these and get good feed­back. You walk along the tracks of others. Where is your adven­ture then? What is your story to tell?

Embrace bad audi­ence reac­tions. Embrace when you go too far. As long as you are still in the safe envi­ron­ment I talked about, this is the best thing that can happen to you!

Bottom line

There are much more pleasant things than talking in front of an audi­ence without con­fi­dence, but with the right prep and prac­tice you will love it. To begin, it’s impor­tant to make a com­fort­able set­ting to prac­tice in and get to know your audi­ence. Think about what you want them to learn from your pre­sen­ta­tion and how you can get them involved. It’s also essen­tial to accept mis­takes and use them as a chance to learn. With these tips, you can build up your abil­i­ties, boost your con­fi­dence, and become a suc­cessful public speaker.

Thank you for reading.

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