The Easiest, Least Stressful Way to Develop Your Speaking Confidence

No one is a born story teller. It comes with practice. You might not think being able to speak confidently in public is important, but I can assure you it can be one of the most life-changing experiences you may ever have. You owe it to yourself to become good at it! I put off learning this for years and I do believe my career was negatively impacted by it.

You can either pay someone to practice on or just practice by yourself. If you feel you are not ready for toastmasters, which is free, or you can’t get to one conveniently, below is a tip I picked up in a presentation skills class at my job a while back. I tried the tip and liked it. Results may vary though, as they say :)

You may have to do this for at least 14 or so days before you start to notice your confidence increase. So hang in there — it works! Of course you can continue to do this, as the pros do, forever ! :) They practice, practice, practice.

Before you begin:

Pick a place you can speak by yourself without any family members/roommates disturbing you for about 15 minutes at a time, say, your (spare) bathroom.

Place three smiley face stickers — or post-its on which you have drawn smiley faces — at about shoulder level on your bathroom mirror (no bathroom? place them on a basement wall, etc.

Write on a piece of paper a three sentence paragraph about something you are interested in.

Now to practice

Read the three sentence paragraph that you wrote to your smiley face audience! (stop laughing — just try it!) As you say each sentence look directly at each smiley. Pick any smiley to start. Say the first sentence. Look at any other smiley as you say the next sentence. You can read your sentence at first, but make sure you look at the smiley afterward. Hold your look until you feel the smiley has understood your point! Seriously — practice this!.

Repeat this procedure every night until you have the paragraph memorized and are looking at, and speaking to, the smileys but not reading to them.

As you get over the silly aspect of what you’re doing, say after three-four days, add a few more sentences. Read two sentences to each smiley. (Don’t read more than 3 sentences to any smiley.) Again, keep going until you have the sentences memorized.

Repeat this process the same time every day for at least 14 days. (you can always continue if you feel you need it).

When you feel you are ready, find three people whom you can trust and seat them comfortably in front of you and repeat the talk you made to your smiley faces — or, give a little longer talk, if you feel comfortable.

If your family or friends make you feel uncomfortable then ask some colleagues, co-workers, or even strangers, to listen. Explain what you are doing so they don’t think you’re a little strange :)

(“I’m following a tip I heard about which helps to improve my speaking skills. I need an audience for 15 minutes. Can you be it?”)

Now to the presentation

1. Any talk should begin with an attention grabber (example below).

If you don’t do this both you and your audience will get off on a bad note. (Your audience desperately wants you to inform / entertain / educate them — they are yearning for your success.)

2. Then tell them what they are going to hear about in your talk. “I’d like to share with you a tip I heard recently describing how easy it is to collect jelly beans.” (or, you pick a topic)

3. Give your talk to those “smiley faces!”

4. After your talk, recap the highlights of your talk. (“In summing it up …”)

5. Submit a call to action to your audience. (“So, I just told you about collecting jellybeans. If should be easy for you now. It would be great to hear how you made out some time. Thanks for listening.”)

Now on to greatness!

Prepare a legitimate talk, no more than 10–20 minutes — about some aspect of your knowledge base with which you feel comfortable, but also about which you feel you will be informative to some group. Use recognized sources/people, if necessary, and acknowledge them in your talk if you use their statements, pix, graphs, etc.

Practice first on your smiley face audience, then on your practice audience — they may even give you critical feedback. Ask them.

When you feel you are ready solicit groups to whom you want to present a talk. (Ask, “Does your group need a speaker some evening? What subjects are they interested in?”) If you wish, wait for a subject you feel comfortable addressing. They may be open to anything, and just looking for someone to fill a spot on the evening’s agenda.

A Sample Starter Talk

Grabber: “What goes up must come down, right? Maybe not.”

Introduction: “Hi My name is ______________

Tell em what they’re going to hear about: “For the next ten (or whatever) minutes I’m going to discuss what can be done about the cost of higher education as well as some alternatives people are choosing instead …”

To smiley 1 “A good education is an invaluable investment in starting any career.”

To smiley 2 “Too bad it costs so much.”

To smiley 3 “Some people say it’s not worth the money.”

To smiley 1. “The past several decades have shown that a good education is an invaluable investment in starting any career. You can’t even get your foot in the door, as they say, without a college degree anymore.”

To smiley 2. “Too bad it costs so much. College tuitions today are twice what they were ten years ago.”

To smiley 3. “Some people say it’s not worth the money. Many graduates wind up owing more than they can ever hope to pay off.”

Recap: “So today/tonight we’ve discussed (a, b, and c)”

Call to action: “I’ve told you about the issues. Maybe with your input our legislators can get going and do something about it.”

“Thank you.”

Now join your local Toastmasters! and practice, practice, practice :)

Why is public speaking so powerful a skill?

When you are watching TV, or YouTube vids, do you mute the ads? They may be annoying, but you do it more because you can. When you are at a seminar or presentation it is tough to turn off that speaker…. you are a captive audience.

When you are speaking in public remember that. The audience is your captive. Lead them into new territory and they will be excited. Cover same old stuff and they will be bored.

That’s why story-telling is powerful; it’s your story, or it’s about someone you know or heard about, and your audience will always be eager to hear your, or other people’s, stories, your successes and your failures — it’s human nature.

It’s important to use a live audience as soon as possible

Daniel Coyle , in The Little Book of Talent, his cool book filled with 52 easy, proven methods to improve almost any skill, states …

“Practice must directly connect to the skill you want to build. (Sounds obvious, but often what we practice has little to do with what we attempt to accomplish.)

“Say you feel nervous and intimidated when you have to speak to a group. Should you:

1. rehearse at home, alone, until you know your material inside out?

2. practice speaking to small groups of people in less formal settings, like in a meeting?

“Although solo rehearsing certainly helps, the only way to perform well under the pressure of an audience is to actually practice speaking to people. No amount of solo practice will prepare you for the nerves you’ll feel when every eye in the room is on you.”

“Never give up!” — some very famous people have said.