How to Speak with Confidence & Captivate Your Audience
Do you ever look at someone – a public speaker, a politician, even a friend– and think “wow, they are confident?”
Confidence is a trait we admire in others and grieve the absence of in ourselves. While some people are born with innate confidence and charisma, the rest of us are left wondering how they sound confident so naturally.
But, the great thing about confidence is that it’s a skill that we can all easily acquire.
As all the best public speakers and politicians and friends know, confidence is as much about appearance and image as it is about feeling confident within one’s self. So where better to start honing your confidence than in your own voice, one of the most important tools you have to give others a good impression of yourself?
Why You Should Always Aim to Speak with Confidence
Consider some of the best speakers in the world. What makes them great? Is it their knowledge, their ability to communicate their message, their passion? Are they great at keeping their audience engaged? Are they good at storytelling?
While the answer to all of those questions is likely to be a “yes,” I’ll give you one of the most important characteristics that makes them all great speakers.
Confidence is not a revolutionary concept. You probably didn’t faint from the shock upon hearing “confidence.” But the reason this is not surprising is that this is a well-known and very utilized characteristic in all leader types.
Most of the best public speakers excel in sounding confident. They understand that if they sound nervous or come off as timid or unprepared, their entire speech may feel inauthentic and uncredible.
They dedicate a significant amount of time to practice, a skill that helps them get rid of any lingering stage anxiety.
So, if you aim to be a great speaker, you must speak with a confident tone and strong belief in yourself.
If you want your message to reach and stick with your audience, you must say it with confidence.
That’s the secret to how the world’s best speakers do it.
10 Tips to Help You Find More Confidence When Presenting
As someone who has been a public speaker for over four decades now, I have learned a trick or two about how to give great presentations.
How to build confidence is a big one.
Here are some tips I have personally used that can help you develop more confidence in both your personal and professional communication.
These tips will help you present your report to your team or present your research at a TedTalk – with confidence. Utilize these tools next time you need to get your message across.
You will be happy you did.
One of the biggest keys to effective to building confidence as a public speaker is simply to practice speaking. You’ve heard the saying a million times: “Practice makes perfect” – but I am here to tell you that practice actually makes progress.
You will notice how much more confident and self-assured you sound as you go through your presentation again and again.
Even if you believe your speech is perfect, practicing will help you feel more comfortable and certain in your delivery.
The more you practice, the more you build your confidence as a speaker. You can record yourself or practice with friends to get honest feedback. If you want to advance your public speaking skills even further, check out my blog on public speaking tips.
Plus, you may learn new things from one presentation to the next – things that could be helpful to incorporate into your next speech in order to deliver your message as confidently and effectively as possible.
Present to a Trusted Audience First
A great way to build confidence is by practicing in front of a trusted audience before presenting your message on the main stage. This allows you to get more comfortable speaking to an audience while getting honest and constructive feedback about your presentation.
By utilizing your network of friends, family, coworkers, and so on, you can run through your presentation without feeling nervous or worrying that you will mess up when it comes to presenting in front of your actual audience. This will allow you to practice your eye contact and body language for your performance.
Your trusted audience will act as a sounding board for how you can improve your presentation. They may express that you need to touch more on your important points, use a more confident voice, fewer filler words, more eye contact, fewer pauses, and so forth.
These comments can help you visualize your speech from the audience’s perspective and incorporate their feedback for the real thing.
Practicing in front of your trusted audience will help you feel more relaxed and confident. Public speaking can be scary, but don’t forget to take a deep breath and keep calm!
Believe in Yourself
A phrase that is displayed in many offices, homes, and Facebook walls – “Believe in yourself.” A common encouraging statement that is especially useful for confidence-building. In order to be great at public speaking, or anything else for that matter, you must believe in yourself, your message, and your abilities.
Believing in yourself applies to multiple facets. Firstly, you must believe in your message. This may be findings from research you have done or a new tool you hope to implement in your company – you must believe in whatever you are presenting.
You are the expert here, and people are looking to you for encouragement, advice, or knowledge. You must believe in what you are hoping the audience will believe in.
Secondly, you have to believe in your ability to deliver your message. Even if you are nervous or afraid, you must believe that you can do it.
Most great speakers will tell you that they were terrified when they first started presenting, but a trick they learned was, “fake it until you make it.” Is it your first presentation and you are freaking out?
Pretend it’s not! Imagine that you have done this a thousand times before and you’re a pro. Keep smiling, stay relaxed, smile, and just go for it – you can do it. And when you believe you can do speak confidently, you’ll sound more confident naturally to your audience.
If either of these criteria is not met, that will come through in your speech. You must believe in yourself in order to be confident and authentic in your presentation.
This tip may feel obvious, but your health is very important to your level of confidence
You know how it feels when you are sick; you are groggy, tired, congested, etc. You have a hard time focusing or being productive. You fall behind on tasks you need to complete.
That’s why keeping your health up is so important for your confidence (and your vocal cords!)
Staying hydrated is one of the best ways to make sure your voice and vocal cords are always “public speaker ready,” and well make you sound more confident.
Studies show that how hydrated you are has a direct effect on the sound of your voice—the more hydrated you are, the more clear and strong your voice sounds. That’s why whenever you hear a dehydrated character in a movie, their voice always sounds weak and raspy!
The key to staying hydrated and feeling confident in your voice is to not wait until right before your speech to start drinking.
Hydration takes time. Keeping yourself hydrated should start at least a couple of hours leading up to your speech – if not always! Staying hydrated ensures that your mouth and throat are properly lubricated so that you can speak articulately and smoothly.
Staying healthy and hydrated will keep your mind and body sharp. If you stay hydrated, eat healthily, exercise, get a good night’s sleep, you will ultimately feel good. And feeling good is a great confidence booster!
The better you feel on the inside, the more confidence you’ll be able to muster up on the outside.
Seek Growth from Critique
You may give dozens of great speeches, but you will always remember the one that didn’t go as planned. You will dwell on it or even beat yourself up about it.
We tend to fixate on the things that went wrong, and that’s totally normal. How you grow from that experience will determine how much you will develop and succeed.
I’m here to tell you that even your mistakes can help you gain confidence. Even if something went wrong, there is no need to feel distressed or defeated. Instead, use that mistake as an opportunity for growth. It’s a perfect time to seek feedback and comments that can help you improve the next time. Even the best thought leaders evolve over time, so don’t be afraid to listen to your criticism, you may just grow from it.
Usually, people will be encouraging about your speech. They will tell you what they liked and what kept them engaged. If they have a negative critique, do not take it personally.
Though it’s an initial ego-deflator, you can use negative critique as a vertical for knowledge and growth. Each comment will plant a seed in your mind that you can focus on for future speeches.
If your mistake was forgetting a line and looking panicked, you can practice how to stay calm in instances like that. You can also make sure to take more time to memorize all your important points the next time around.
Every point of critique is an opportunity to learn and grow. The more you view critique in that manner, the more confidence you can gain through every negative comment.
You know what they say: a picture is worth 1000 words.
Visual aids, such as pictures, charts, graphs, infographics, help engage your audience as well as reinforce your points. Considering 65% of the population are visual learners, visual aids can enhance the presentation and help them retain the information.
By including visual content, you’re increasing the percentage of people who will remember your message long after the presentation is over.
Visual aids help you emphasize your important points and keep your audience engaged. Especially if you are just starting out in your public speaking journey, having visual aids will give you something to lean on and divert focus to when you are nervous.
The audience’s attention will be at the screen for a moment, giving you time to take a deep breath and stay relaxed.
Once you feel confident as a speaker, you may not even need visual aids. You will feel comfortable and confident enough to speak to your audience without them.
Keep the Presentation Moving
The show must go on, right?
That’s what anyone who has ever been on stage knows to be true.
As much as we want to, we cannot control everything. Sometimes, things don’t go our way – there can be technical difficulties, venue issues, audience mishaps — whatever it is, being prepared for the uncertain can help you keep the show moving.
If you’ve ever seen a presentation go awry, you have noticed that a great public speaker will keep their cool and find humor in the situation.
Their body language will remain relaxed, they won’t lose their focus, they will keep smiling and holding eye contact with their audience, and find a way to make light of the situation. This type of engaging behavior will ease the awkwardness of the situation.
This type of level of confidence is gained through practice. You can enhance your public speaking by practicing your backup plan in moments when things aren’t going according to plan. Knowing how to handle a critical situation will help you feel more relaxed and confident throughout your entire presentation.
Even if you stumble, forget a line, experience a technical difficulty, or so forth, your ability to move the presentation along despite hiccups will demonstrate your confidence.
Keeping your presentation moving will show your audience that even though things don’t always go as planned, you remain confident and prepared for anything.
Avoid Filler Words
So, like… umm… yeah.
The um’s and uh’s and er’s that litter many of our conversations. Although these little words don’t add meaning to your statements, they do perform a function in conversations.
They allow you to take a second and think about what you’re going to say next. They let the person you are having a conversation with know that you’re not quite finished speaking yet, even if you’ve paused for a moment.
While typically acceptable in normal conversations, filler words can be detrimental to public speaking. Using a filler word may make it sound like you have forgotten what you’re about to say next. They break your audience’s attention from your message.
Instead of using filler words in your speeches, you should practice embracing the power of the pause.
All great public speakers are masters of the pause. They are comfortable with silences. When they are moving on to the next point or holding for dramatic effect, they take a deep breath, stay relaxed and keep smiling before saying anything. They know that the pause is a key part of good public speaking.
Since we use filler words so often, cutting them from your vernacular and replacing them with pauses may feel unnatural.
That’s why it’s so important to practice your presenting. Practice a few rounds of your presentation focusing heavily on the filler words. Once actively focus on the filler words, you will notice how much, or how little, you say them. Then, actively catch yourself in the moment and use a pause to replace it.
That pause will show your audience that you are confident in your speaking abilities, and keep them engaged in your presentation.
Experiment with Your Tone of Voice
Whenever you hear a great public speaker or storyteller, you notice how their tone and loudness fluctuate throughout their speech.
They use their tone to convey mood or emphasize an important point. They may use a lower, deeper tone when describing a problem. They will then switch to speaking loudly, in a higher, more optimistic tone when describing how the problem was solved.
This type of tone fluctuation allows them to influence the emotions of their audience and keep them engaged throughout their presentation.
The tone of your presentation should always match the subject matter you are discussing, which will add to you sounding confident during your entire presentation.
If you have a hopeful message, keep your tone light. If you want your audience to consider a serious topic, you can use a moodier tone. It’s all about playing up the important points in your message.
Practicing playing with tone can be a huge confidence booster. Even if you know the contents of your presentation like the back of your hand, you can utilize tone to create emphasis and intrigue where needed. Your audience will see you as more confident when you can get through your speech without making it feel like you read it from a paper.
Dress for Success
Look good, feel good, speak…even better!
Dressing for success means a few things in this situation: the way we dress in order to feel like our best, and how we should dress when presenting.
Let’s discuss dressing for ourselves first. As it turns out, the way we dress impacts how we feel about ourselves – even the way we judge our own abilities. In a 2012 paper by Hajo Adam and Adam Galinsky, the idea of “enclothed cognition,” was studied. This study was to determine whether our clothes affect our thoughts
In one particular experiment, participants wore either a doctor’s coat or a painter’s coat and were asked to perform tasks. Those who wore the doctor’s coat performed significantly better at completing the task.
Wonder why that is? The research behind enclothed cognition suggests that it’s not so much about what we wear, but what we think about what we wear.
So even if you don’t have a doctor’s coat to throw on for your presentation, it is important that you wear the clothing that you feel the most comfortable and confident in!
Now we move into dressing the part. Even though your audience is there to listen to what you have to say, it’s very important to dress the part. While we now know how important it is to dress in something you feel comfortable and confident in, it must also align with the tone and theme of your presentation.
For example, if your presentation is about how to find balance in life, wearing a full-pressed suit may not be the best choice since the topic of the conversation is more casual and inclusive. You want to look and sound like you have found balance in your own life. A better outfit option for that speech could be a nice pair of slacks and a button-down.
If you are presenting something more formal and the event is corporate, a suit may be the way to go.
As long as you feel confident in that suit, of course.
Feeling good and looking the part when presenting will help you feel more confident and boost your stage presence. Just make sure that whatever you do wear is also comfortable to keep you worry-free during the presentation and will allow you to use body language naturally and without restriction or wardrobe malfunction.
Looking for the ultimate guide to public speaking, including everything from picking a speech topic to taking your public speaking international? Check out this blog on everything you need to know about public speaking.
With these tools, your ability to speak with confidence will grow exponentially. If you are looking for a course that helps you put these tips into action, check out my, “Speak Like A Leader,” course! Here, you will learn everything you need to know on how to use your words and your message to lead.
About Brian Tracy — Brian is recognized as the top sales training and personal success authority in the world today. He has authored more than 60 books and has produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on sales, management, business success and personal development, including worldwide bestseller The Psychology of Achievement. Brian's goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin and Youtube.