1). Practice makes perfect. The key to doing something well is doing it often through practice – and public speaking is not an exception. Rehearse your presentation until you are comfortable with the actual words, then try practice it with a real or stand-in microphone to get a feel for it. If possible, record yourself so that you can hear your pacing, pauses, voice clarity, and overall volume.
2). Slow it down. Instead of talking at your audience, try to pace yourself so that it is more like a conversation. Speaking too slowly will put your audience to sleep, while talking too quickly will make it seem like you are trying to get the speech over with as soon as possible. Instead, researchers say to aim for approximately 190 words per minute as a confident pace.
3). Don’t phrase statements as questions. When you ask a question, you are inherently saying that you are missing information or want approval, which makes you sound vulnerable. Instead, project your statements with confidence by maintaining an even tone while speaking and do not let your voice get higher towards the end of a sentence.
4). Speak with greater inflection. Put more power in your voice by emphasizing certain words to make a point. Inflection will also make you sound more passionate about your speech topic.
5). Avoid filler phrases. Whether out of habit or nervousness, many people rely on filler phrases to fill pauses (such as “um” or “well”) or use them as negative prefaces before making a statement (“In my opinion”). These can do a large amount of damage to the tone of confidence that you are trying to convey and will undermine any persuasive aspects of your presentation.
6). Don’t forget about body language. The body language that you use while speaking is just as important as the words themselves. Confident speakers use a variety of gestures to further convey their message, excitement, and knowledge about the topic. However, some actions, such as fiddling with objects, can distract your audience.
7). Smile! Smiling really is contagious, so include a few in your speech. They not only make your voice sound happier and easier to listen to, but they also convey confidence and let the audience know that you are friendly and approachable.
8). Maintain good posture. Standing with your shoulders back and your head held high will not only make you look confident, but will also help improve your voice. Good posture allows you to breathe in more deeply and out through your abdomen, which will help you clearly project your voice.
9. Do not fear silence. Silence is a big fear amongst public speakers, but it can actually be used as a confident presentation tool. Silent periods give the audience a moment to truly absorb and retain information. Additionally, your ability to be comfortable in the momentary silence will make you seem confident with yourself and your subject matter.
10). Remember to stay hydrated. It may sound silly, but staying hydrated is a must before a presentation. Water helps moisturize your vocal chords and enhances the sound of your voice, so drink up the day before you present
11). Maintain eye contact. Confident public speakers want to really connect with their audience. Try to make eye contact with a different audience member during each phrase or sentence.
Bill Rosenthal is CEO of Communispond