male speaker looks into the room and said into the microphone, speech at the conference

How to present confidently, every time you stand up to speak.

male speaker looks into the room and said into the microphone, speech at the conferenceFor many of us just being able to stand up and speak coherently would be amazing, let alone being confident! I know when I first started having to do sales presentations, I would have done anything to stop myself showing how scared I was, both physically and vocally.

My first boss could see how scared I was and uttered the immortal words … “Sally, you need to be more confident!” Possibly the least useful advice I have ever received (and I have received some pretty lousy advice over the years!)

What I needed was some direction or ideas on how to be more confident … so here are my top four tips for exactly that.

1. Learn to control your breathing.

When you’re nervous you may find yourself breathing in short shallow breathes, in which case you won’t speak well and you won’t be able to think on your feet. You need to slow your breath down.

Breathe in from your diaphragm for the count of 7 and out for the count of 11 several times.  Your brain’s overriding job is to keep you alive so when it thinks you’re in danger, your breathing becomes quicker (pumping oxygen to arms and legs for fight or flight). By breathing more deeply and slowly your brain will stop preparing you for imminent danger and you will feel more relaxed.

2. Drink lots of water.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that if you are well hydrated you will not only feel better but you will look better too.

I try to keep a bottle of water with me at all times but definitely when I’m about to speak. There is nothing worse than getting a dry mouth mid presentation … you start to concentrate on that, rather than what you’re saying and it’s really hard to sound like you know what you’re doing if you aren’t really concentrating.

As well as drinking lots of water, try to avoid milky drinks beforehand as they will make your mouth “claggy” and if you are getting/have a cold or need to work on your diction or clarity you just make your job that bit harder.

3. Stand positively.

We have 3 tips for standing positively …

  • Stand on both feet, only moving if there is a point to your movement; there is nothing more distracting than watching someone else pace or sway.
  • Stand upright so you look confident – head up so you are able to get eye contact with your audience (but not so high that you’re looking down your nose at everyone!)
  • Pull your shoulders back slightly so you can breathe more easily and you don’t look as though you are carrying the weight of the world on them.

If you’re standing positively, you’ll look more confident and if you look more confident you will feel (and be) more confident!

4. Use Tongue twisters before you speak.

It doesn’t matter how great what you have to say is, if no one can understand you. Lots of people come to us because they’re concerned about their accent but to be honest your accent isn’t a barrier to being understood, it’s your diction! To be understood you need to enunciate well and to do that all your vocal muscles, lips, tongue and mouth need to be warmed up.

There are masses of vocal exercises you can do to address a specific issue but at the very least do some tongue twisters before you start speaking to get you going. Often when we first speak it’s to introduce ourselves and how embarrassing is it, when the other person can’t even understand your name!

My favourites are:

“Ken Dog’s Dad’s Dog’s Dead” and “Barney Rubble’s Bubble’s Burst”!

If you have a specific sound you find hard, then Google tongue twisters for that sound and you’ll find plenty of options.

It helps hugely if you care about what you’re saying but if your audience can hear you, you are standing with authority and you’re fully hydrated you will present more confidently … and if you look and sound more confident you will be!

If you want more help with your breathing and voice we have a lot more information within our Power of the Voice MP3. You can find out more and download it here.