5 tips to help boost your confidence when presenting

Did you know that a fear of public speaking cuts wages by 10%?  We believe that statistic alone should bump you into action! However, one of the things that could be holding you back is confidence when presenting… or lack of.

Ask anyone how they feel just before they are due to give a presentation and we guarantee the answer will be NERVOUS! So, how do you cope with it? How do you reduce the nerves whilst appearing confident?

To begin with, there is a misconception about nerves.  The “nerves” you feel is actually adrenalin and is a good thing.  It shows you are excited and is completely normal.  The adrenalin running through you, before or during a presentation, is your body’s way of getting ready for the big event.  Believe it or not, stress and excitement are, at the basic level, neurologically the same.  So, change your language and tell yourself you are excited.

When you tell yourself that you are excited and passionate, rather than nervous, it changes your demeanour and helps you appear confident.

Below are 5 tips to help you feel more confident and at ease when presenting…

Tip 1 – posture

Standing up straight is an easy presentation skill to learn and one way to immediately look confident and feel confident.

When you stand straight, with your shoulders back and head held high, you look and feel self-assured and poised.  In addition to this, when you stand straight your airways work better, you can breathe better which helps you to feel more in control, which …. helps to make you feel more confident!

Tip 2 – facial

What is your default face? What we mean is how do you look when you are not conscious of making any face? If you are not sure, take a quick look in the rear view mirror the next time you are sitting in your car at a red light… you might be surprised at how serious you look!

Changing your facial expression will help change how others perceive you.  However, more importantly, it will change how you feel.

Amy Cuddy in her brilliant book “Presence”, gives many examples of how and why this is true, so don’t just take my word for it!

Smile – try to make a conscious effort to keep your default face pleasant.  When presenting, a smile lets the audience see you are relaxed.  It isn’t appropriate to smile constantly when giving a presentation but having a pleasant face and smiling occasionally can really help an audience warm to you.  A smile at the beginning and at the end is usually very appropriate – unless you are the bearer of bad news!

However, do not smile the whole time – it looks fake.

Also, do not smile if what you are saying requires an alternative facial gesture (see congruency tip below).

Eye contact – Appropriate eye contact suggests you are truthful, engaging and approachable.  Watch confident speakers on YouTube and you will see they look at people as they talk to them.  They don’t look at the ground, the ceiling or out into space!

When you look up and look down, it can make you appear less credible.  If you struggle to look people right in the eye, try looking at the bridge of the nose, the eyebrows or at the edge of the eye.

Occasionally when presenting, you might see an audience member who looks at you in a way that is a real confidence sucker… our tip is to just lollipop them!  What we mean by that is you think of a person who always makes you feel good about yourself.  A person who actually stokes your confidence.  Then place an imaginary lollipop with that person’s face etched on it in front of the face of the confidence sucker.  Speak as if you are speaking to the confidence stoker and it really does re-boot your confidence.

Congruency – Make sure your 3 V’s are in sync.  Your Visual, Vocal, and Verbal indicators need to be totally matching.

For example, if you are talking about something that is very serious, your face should look serious and your tone should sound serious (typically a deeper resonance) to match your words.

When the 3 V’s are out of sync it sounds like you are robotically delivering a bunch of words.  On top of this, you do not sound credible.  Going back to the example above – if you are delivering bad news with a smile on your face in a high pitch excited voice, you are unlikely to be believed.

So, in short, make sure when you are speaking that say what you mean AND say it like you mean it.  This will make you sound more credible and make you feel more confident.

Tip 3 – gestures / movement

Gesturing is one of the main areas that our clients struggle with when they come to us for coaching.  Our tip is to make an effort to notice what you do with your hands whilst you are having a conversation with a friend… this is what you naturally do when talking.

When you give a presentation, using hand gestures to describe what you are talking about will help the audience become engaged as they can visualise what you are describing.

Research featured in the Harvard Business Review with entrepreneurs showed that those with bigger gestures and passionate delivery received 12% more interest from investors.

Your PowerPoint slides alone will not persuade… your passion will.

Tip 4 – vocal

There are many ways you can help yourself to sound more relaxed and confident.  Our favourite 3 are:

Vary your pitch – studies show that we perceive people with deeper voices as more trustworthy, so you could try lowering your resonance slightly when presenting.  We all have a pitch range that we naturally use – find your natural varied pitch and it will help stop the monotonous tone which could disengage the audience!

Vary your volume – when you inject power into your voice it makes you sound more powerful.  The last thing you want is to speak so quietly that it sounds like you are not sure of what you are saying.  Be sure to project from your diaphragm and not your throat.  There are many reasons for this.  Our top 2 reasons are – firstly, it is safer for your vocal nodules.  Secondly, it sounds like projection rather than SHOUTING which is what happens when we project from our throat.  SHOUTING IS NOT GOOD!

Vary your speed – think about how you naturally talk; when you are excited you more than likely speak quicker, adding impact to your words; when you talk about something serious you probably slow down.   Sometimes our clients say “I have to speak really fast – because I have so much to say, in such a short space of time”.  Our answer to this is to help them to use less words and double their impact.

Make an effort to do the same when you give a presentation, varying your vocal speed keeps the audience engaged and you will come across as being confident.

Tip 5 – breathe…

Focus on your breathing before your presentation and it will help you to feel more relaxed and confident.  Don’t fall under pressure to start talking the second you get up – take a moment or two to take a few breaths and get into position.

… and pause

We use punctuation when we write so why not when we speak?

Pausing is vital not only during your presentation but also before you start as it will give you an opportunity to take a breath, ground yourself and gives the audience the impression that you are in control.

If you often use filler words (um, err etc.), pause instead.  It gives the audience time to digest what you have just said whilst also allowing you time to gather your thoughts and think about exactly what you are going to say next.

So there you have our top 5 tips to help you not only look more confident when presenting but also feel more confident.

If a lack of confidence is an area you struggle with when giving a presentation or speaking in front of a group of people, our 1 day Presentation Skills Masterclass will help! Click here for full details of what’s covered during the course.