It’s common to want to be a more confident speech giver. Once you surpass the initial nerves, there are many strategies you can use to tweak your speaking abilities, making you a more confident speech giver.
Much of what you do comes from experience. However, if you’re just starting out, or just have no idea what you could be doing wrong, there are a few things to make you more interesting so you don’t leave your audience falling asleep in their chairs.
1. Know what you’re saying
If you watch President Barack Obama – a very confident speech giver – speak (often in front of crowds of thousands), how often does he look down at the sheet of paper in front of him? If you begin to read your speech, you lose the attention of the audience and any gravitas you possessed when you started. Try to learn your speech in such a way that if you lose your place, you can still continue on.
2. Slow down
A study commissioned by Post Office Telecoms found the ideal voice used a maximum of 164 words per minute with a gap of 0.48 seconds between sentences. Many people tend to speed up when nervous. As such, when in doubt, take a breath, survey the audience, and then continue.
3. Plant your feet
Especially if you’re not a confident speech writer, experienced with using the stage to its full potential, spread your feet shoulder width apart, and do not move them at all. So many good speeches are ruined when the audience is distracted by the speaker’s agitated box step. When nervous, people have a habit of fidgeting by rocking back and forth between their feet, or walking in small circles. It is so distracting. What’s more, the audience can tell you’re not confident up there. The one thing you want the audience to take from the experience is your words, not how good you’d be in Footloose.
4. Use your hands
When a confident speech giver is talking, it is like telling a story. And a good storyteller would be hard-pressed to do their story justice while sitting on their hands. If you’re making a point, emphasize it with a sharp gesture. If your words move from one section to another, flow along with your hands. If you don’t think you can do this naturally, practice in the mirror, or ask a friend if it appears genuine. Even a few well-placed gestures can make a world of difference while giving a speech.
5. Inflect your voice
Remember the Dalek’s from Doctor Who? Or the Vogons from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? Darth Vader from that movie everyone knows? While enviable villains, their voices left something to be desired. When you’re practicing, make sure that your sentences don’t all sound the same. Use highs and lows in your voice depending on what you’re saying.
6. Make steady eye contact
It might seem scary to look out into the audience when you’re speaking, but find one or two friendly faces, spend a second or two making eye contact with them, then move to the next. This way, you don’t seem jumpy or flighty.
With these few little adjustments to the way you talk and behave while speaking, you can make the most confident of speeches.