I was running a media training course with the board of a large organisation last week. One of their team handled her first interview really well, demonstrating the empathy and control required for effective crisis communication. Her only challenge was a lack of self-confidence: she found it hard to believe in herself despite the fact that she was very good at it! The rest of the day was spent building up her confidence in her role of business communicator.
Speaking in public, especially with your colleagues present in the room, is a frequent source of stress for business executives. People are fearful of messed up lines, incoherent body language or a trembling voice. Whilst communication skills training may be the best answer, here are some immediate tips to consider before facing the crowds.
1) Preparation is key
If you’re properly prepared, your confidence level rises automatically. It’s crucial to know your audience, to be familiar with the content of your speech, to select clear and engaging messages as well as to rehearse the final presentation or interview. Doing so will ensure that you feel more positive and self-assured. You will also be prepared for questions, even those tough ones!
2) You are the expert
You’ve been selected to discuss a particular issue for a reason – you are seen as an authority in the field and are appreciated for your expertise. Not only does it mean that people will come to listen to you and soak up all the knowledge that you have, but also that you’re likely to be the most well-informed and experienced person in the room. This means that you are in control!
3) Remember to maintain a positive frame of mind
Before you begin your interview, briefing or presentation, dismiss all negative thoughts and images from your mind and instead concentrate on the positives. Think back to your greatest achievements, the talks that you successfully delivered and the praise that you received. Remember how good you felt and visualise the audience’s nodding heads, smiling faces and clapping hands. Tell yourself that you will deliver the best presentation of your life: you know and believe that you can. Self-talk, however difficult, is a very effective and reliable method. And the consequences of a negative mindset can be disastrous.
Nervousness makes us physically tense: our neck stiffens, hands start shaking and our voice becomes constricted, sounding high-pitched or strained. To help this, roll your shoulders and then raise and lower them to relax your muscles. Gently roll your head to ease the tension in your neck. Slow down your breathing and relax. Warm up your facial muscles by opening your eyes wide, and moving your mouth and lips. Releasing the tension in your body will calm you down and boost your confidence when talking.
5) Warm up your voice
Just like the body’s muscles, the voice works better when it has warmed up. Make sure you loosen your vocal cords before you start any presentation. To do this, use any excuse to talk: hum, sing or even talk to the wall to ensure that your voice is ready to go. It’s helpful to avoid drinking coffee before or during a presentation as it’s likely to dry out the mouth. Regular sips of water, on the other hand, can keep the mouth and throat lubricated.
6) Take the first step with confidence
Having followed all the tips discussed above you are ready to go. Remember to fill your mind with positive thoughts, stand up, make sure the room is quiet, pause, look at the audience, and begin. Make your opening statement engaging and impactful and say it like you mean it. A successful beginning will spearhead the rest of the presentation and will give you that extra bit of confidence.
Remember not to banish nerves completely. Nerves serve a purpose; they show that you care, and raise your adrenaline, giving you that extra boost. Many world famous actors still suffer from nerves, but it doesn’t prevent them from delivering brilliant performances.
Follow the guidelines listed above and invest in some communication skills training: you may not win an Oscar, but you can deliver a performance of which you can be justifiably proud.