Three Proven Ways to Build Public Speaking Confidence

Published: 16th November 2006
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FIRST : IF YOU DON'T FEEL CALM, FAKE IT. That's right. If you cannot be genuinely cool, calm and confident yet, I'm going to show you how to pretend you are. How to act as if you're calm and confident.

To see how a change in your thinking will affect your bodily reactions and symptoms of fear, I want you to think about your impending public presentation. Do you immediately feel that all-too-familiar stab of fear? We sometimes call them butterflies in the tummy. Some of the participants in my public speaking workshops and many of my counselling clients say that their 'butterflies' feel more like a few fighter bombers flying around. OK. You're at home now so relaaaax. In my Public Speaking Success e-Program,( I get you to tune in to your different feelings of fear in a number of different ways. I do that here, and in my e-program, to let you experience with me how those feelings are only that: feelings. And of course the parallel realisation that you're making is that it is your thoughts which have produced the feeling - the butterflies, the dry mouth, the racing pulse, the quivery voice. Your thoughts, your memories of previous fear-filled events, have triggered those feelings or symptoms of fear.

In my e-program we look at changing those thinking patterns. For our first way to greater confidence, please take these steps:

Deliberately open your mouth just a little bit, and consciously let your tongue go very limp.

Look at yourself in the mirror. It's physically impossible for you to be tense and anxious while you're opening your mouth just a little bit, and while you're keeping your tongue limp and relaxed.

Now that I've got you relaxed, a to yourself in the mirror. It's alright. There's only you and me here and I won't tell anyone. Keeping your tongue very limp and your mouth, chin and jaw areas very loose, say a few words. For instance, try saying "I'm feeling really terrified about that talk next Tuesday.''

Now, please go and get your speaking notes, the ones you've prepared for the talk. If you haven't finished your preparation, postpone this exercise until you have an outline of your talk distilled to the sort of speaking notes I outline in my Public Speaking Success e-Program. I'm sure you know how to create great notes which will be your special prompts or cues on the big day.

With those brief notes....

Stand in front of the mirror again. Keep your mouth nice and relaxed. Let's forget about keeping your tongue too limp, just concentrate on looking at yourself in the mirror knowing that your face from the nose down, is relaxed. I'm not going to even worry about getting the rest of your body calm, for the moment.

With that very relaxed mouth, start giving your talk. Smile at the little joke you'll tell your audience next week. Look suitably worried or serious when you give that statistic about the spread of illiteracy or poverty or whatever serious news you'll convey.

That's it.

Maybe you want to say to me: "But Jeannette, I've only been pretending that I was feeling calm and confident about that next presentation. I've only been acting as if I was truly calm and confident for the sake of this exercise".

My response?

"Think about this, my sweetness. During the five minutes or so that you were doing that exercise, you were calm and relaxed. And you can feel that very same way in front of an audience".

In Anxiety and Panic Attacks ? All You Need to Know( my downloadable kit about anxiety and panic, and in Public Speaking Success e-Program, I constantly remind you to be kind to yourself. To take little steps toward your confident self. The confident you just waiting to fly away from your now anxious thoughts. In this exercise, my advice to my clients is to practise that exercise again before their next big event. This time practise with an audience comprised of a few family and friends. Tell them you're doing an experiment.

If you don't have time to get a little friendly audience together, remember I'm up there with you at your next presentation. Feel my presence next to you. Willing you to feel more calm so that you can present your ideas and information in a way that you enjoy. If you have to go ahead next week with that presentation you were worried about, just remember that first strategy:

Let your tongue go limp in your mouth. Feel your jaw relax. Just before you start your presentation next week, open your mouth a little and remember that image of you standing relaxed in front of the mirrror. The mind is a marvellous thing. Just by triggering that memory of that relaxed state, will re-produce that feeling. Finish this sentence: if your memories of fear can produce feelings of fear, your memories of speaking in a confident and relaxed way can produce feelings of being _____________ and _______.


Some people respond better to physical ways to feel more relaxed. This is a tactic used by actors before going onstage. Stand at arm's length away from a wall. Place both your palms flat on the wall at about shoulder height in front of you. Push against the wall with your palms - as if you were trying to push the wall down.

Notice that your abdominal area is totally engaged in that effort. It is those muscles in your solar plexus that are vital to keeping you centred and calm. While engaged in that physical effort your body cannot also produce the noradrenaline which is the precursor to those panicky feelings of fear.

In this short article, I can't go into all the detail I provide in my Public Speaking Success e-Program, but I do need you to understand that there is a physical relationship between:

The way you breathe,

How you stand and hold your abdominal muscles and

How you speak.

PHYSICAL WAYS TO CONTROL FEELINGS OF FEAR One of my favourite writers on the subject of public presentations, Dorothy Sarnoff, refers to The Vital Triangle. Here is how you find it - if you don't already know where it is.

Sit on the edge of a straight-backed chair, head held high, chest up.

Using both hands, run your fingers down the middle of your chest until you reach muscle.

Run the fingers of each hand along your ribcage as it splays out. These are the top and sides of what Ms Sarnoff called The Vital Triangle. Its base is the straight line across the widest separation of the ribs - about 7.5cms or 3 inches above your waist.

Place one foot in front of the other, arm's length from a wall. Put both hands on the wall at shoulder height and try to push the wall down to the count of four. You will feel the muscles in that Vital Triangle tighten and contract when you do that.

Doing exercises to strengthen those muscles and to become more aware of them, will be of great assistance to you in controlling nervousness.

Contracting those muscles reduces or stops the production of norepinephrine or noradrenaline - the panic hormone. In fact, one of your body's major nerve-control centres lies behind that triangle, so controlling that area is good also for control of anger and pain.

We're marvellously adaptable creatures, we humans. Sometimes it helps us to relax by loosening up. Other people relax and de-stress their systems by becoming aware of, and tensing particular muscles.

Once again, there's more detail about that in my Public Speaking Success e-Program.

THIRD STRATEGY - VISUALISE SUCCESS Another strategy to assuage your own nervousness is to make sure that you're totally familiar with the venue at which you'll speak. Going back to our first strategy, when you're practising or rehearsing your presentation in front of the mirror, when you're smiling and basking in the positive feelings from the audience imagine that you're there in that auditorium or theatre and on that stage. See the colour of the curtains. Or even their color! Visualise the placement of the chairs for your audience. Put as much detail as you can into your visualisation.

Feel it.

That marvellous feeling of actually being there and feeling calm and confident.

I've discovered that there's something extremely powerful that we can add to that visualisation process. It's so powerful that I devote a whole Section in myPublic Speaking Success e-Program to it. For now, the process of visualising your calm, confident and successful delivery is a great way to making it happen..

My three strategies or public speaking tips were... just the tip of the iceberg. To your continued happiness and success.

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