Self-Confidence is a Major Element in Public Speaking Success
Self-confidence is a crucial element in public speaking success. You are not speaking just to hear yourself talk - you are speaking because you have something to say. Before you can command the attention of your audience, you have to believe that you have a message that is worth listening to and that you have the ability to communicate it effectively. If you don't believe it, your audience will not believe it.
Self-confidence will be helpful, especially in those moments when you
forget what you were going to say, someone asks an unanticipated
question or something unexpected happens, like the projector lamp blows out or your laptop battery dies. You have to decide quickly what to say next and being self-confident allows you to access all of your problem-solving brainpower. A lack of self-confidence will clog your brain with negative thoughts ("why didn't I think of that? I'm an idiot!"), block your problem-solving abilities and lead you to self-destruct under the pressure.
As you build your public speaking self-confidence, there are three
questions to consider:
1. What is the negative voice in your head telling you right before
you speak in front of a group?
I call this voice the "Joy-Sucker" because for most coaching clients I
work with, it's a nasty and negative voice that sucks the joy out of work
and life. It says things like "who do you think you are?" and "no one
wants to listen to you." Instead of allowing the Joy-Sucker to be the
only channel playing on your internal radio station, you have to change
the channel and replace the Joy-Sucker with a mantra, a positive phrase that you can repeat to boost your confidence. A mantra could be something like "you can do it" or "you have something worth saying." With time and practice, you will begin to believe it and it becomes loud enough to automatically drown out your negative Joy-Sucker.
2. What advice would you give a child or friend in a similar situation?
Would you say, "you're an idiot, no one will listen to you" or "wow, you're going to fail"? No, of course not! You would be supportive and encouraging – and help them build their self-confidence through practice, feedback and positive speaking experiences. If you would never dare say these negative words to a child or friend, then why are you saying them to yourself? Why not treat yourself with the same care and gentleness that you use with others?
3. What are you really afraid of?
For many people who fear public speaking, what they're really afraid of is totally out of proportion to the actual situation. For example, you think, "First I'll give a bad five-minute presentation, then everyone will laugh at me and then I'll get fired – and be publically humiliated." Stop and think about how likely that is to happen. And even if the very unlikely worst case scenario did happen, could you deal with it and survive? Probably. Knowing that you could deal with it and survive should help you reduce the power of your fear.
Building public speaking self-confidence takes time and practice, but you can do it. You have to work on your public speaking skills, believe you can be successful even before you experience success and as you experience success, continue to build your skills in a reinforcing positive loop.
Gilda Bonanno is a speaker, trainer and coach who helps people from all walks of life improve their communication and presentation skills.
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