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Outside-In Confidence for Public Speaking

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If you are speaking in front of a group, regardless of how or why you got there, you are an expert. The entire audience is looking at you as the person who knows enough about the topic to be asked to speak. As such, you must present yourself as an expert (not necessarily "the" expert, but "an" expert) There are two ways to present yourself as an expert: 1)know your material and 2)project confidence.

Knowing your material is obvious. If you are speaking to a group, you must learn your material and take as much time as you need to prepare.

Confidence is trickier, because confidence is a mind game. The more prepared you are, the more confident you can be. It is not uncommon, however, for extremely unprepared people to project confidence and for extremely prepared speakers to project a distinct lack of confidence.

The goal is to be prepared and project confidence. But you may be prepared and still feel insecure. This could be due to a general fear of speaking, pressure from the size or make-up of the audience, insecurity based on other speakers, or many other reasons. Regardless of the reason, you must be able to put it aside and make the audience believe that you are confident.

So how do you project confidence even when you have none? The key comes down to one important point:

"You don't have to be confident; you have to project confidence"

While your long-term goal is to actually be confident, in the short-term you only need to take command of the stage in a way that makes the audience believe you are confident.

The easiest and fastest way to do this is to control your body. Try the following four things:

Stand up straight. Nothing projects insecurity like a person who is slightly hunched over or looking down. Remember the posture lessons from your youth! Imagine a string from the highest point on your head gently pulling your body up. Now imagine the string letting go and relax your body - but don't fall back and let your body collapse - hold your upright, strong position.

Open your body up. The most subtle way speakers project insecurity is by closing their bodies off. This comes in the form of collapsing the body in, crossing arms (or putting them in your pockets), turning slightly away from the audience, or hiding behind the podium. Once you stand up straight, make a conscious effort to keep your body open to the audience.

Project your voice. This will take practice. The most confident speaker in the world will sound weak if the audience can not hear them. In addition, your message will be lost if the audience has to struggle to hear you. Practice the art of comfortably projecting your voice so that the entire room can hear you. A low voice is associated with insecurity; a powerful voice projects confidence, even if the speaker is scared out of his wits!

Slow down. Unless you have a particularly highly-energetic frenetic style, speaking and moving quickly will create an image of insecurity. Most people speed up when they feel scared. It's as if they are trying to finish their speech as quickly as possible so they can get off the stage. Make an effort to slow down both your delivery and movements, and you will project a confident image to the audience.

Work on these techniques, one at a time, and you will find yourself projecting great confidence. You'll know you're doing it right when, after a speech that you feel tremendously insecure about, audience members will comment on how confident and knowledgeable you seemed.

The amazing thing about these four techniques is that while they allow you to "fake-it" and act confident when you aren't, they will actually start to make you feel confident. Most people believe that you must first feel confident before you can act confident. In fact, if you use the above four techniques to act confident, you will find your inner confidence increasing. You will be developing your confidence from the "outside-in."

Avish Parashar is a dynamic professional speaker who shows organizations and individuals how to get what they want using the Art and Science of improv comedy. He weaves together humorous stories, witty observations, and interactive exercises from improvisational comedy to get people laughing, learning, and motivated! Avish is most commonly called upon to deliver programs on Motivation, Sales, and Communication

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