Acing Public Speaking: How to Exude Confidence and Ensure Your Voice Is Heard

Public speaking can be a frightening prospect, especially if you’re on the introverted side. But it’s a lot like diving into a swimming pool: You’re nervous at first, maybe even uncomfortable — then you start enjoying it! Exuding confidence and delivering your message with clarity is extremely important, no matter the nature of the engagement or the size of the audience. You can become adept at public speaking whether it’s voicing your concerns at a meeting, delivering a webinar or conference call, or giving a talk or keynote speech at a conference.

Here’s how you can physically and mentally prepare for a top-notch delivery with your speaking engagements.

Knowledge, and preparation, is power

It’s always going to seem more nerve-wracking preparing for a speech or meeting if you don’t know much about the topic at hand. Have you properly prepared for your speech?

You’ve probably heard to just “be prepared” before, but in doing this, have you adequately researched the topic? What about the expected audience? For instance, if you’re an attorney giving a talk about a new law that passed, you’d have to prepare a talk for your peers differently than if you were addressing everyday people affected by the law.

The more you know about the topic and the more realistic your expectations about the attendees, the more confidence will shine through, and you won’t even realize you’re talking to a room full of strangers.

Physically prepare your throat

Stay hydrated! Get your coffee or tea in ahead of time and always keep some water nearby. If you’re in the midst of cold and flu season, keep a packet of lozenges handy.

This is especially crucial for a live event like a speech or meeting. Keep a water bottle with you just in case there’s no time to get water at the event, or the organizers don’t have it out for the speakers.

Practice what you’re going to talk about

Use any method that works for you: Practice in front of a mirror, with a friend or family member, or record yourself with your phone and play it back to see how you sound.

Where do you sound confident? Where do you keep slipping up? This can help you address what to cut from your talk or where you can improve so you can deliver the message more articulately.

If possible, ask a colleague who’s familiar with the topic and/or type of event to give you feedback on what you’re discussing. You can rehearse with them and also get pointers for what the audience will find helpful, so you’ll be able to speak to them more confidently.

Speak in the moment and, better yet, utilize audience participation

It doesn’t matter if you’re speaking at a team meeting or a conference: People like engaging talks that get them fired up and passionate about the topic, as opposed to hearing a lecture off of a slide deck.

Having a pleasant-looking presentation is only half the battle. When deciding how you’ll deliver your talk, once again, remember your audience. What kind of takeaway do you want to give the attendees? What is this audience going to find helpful or valuable?

Audience participation, whether it’s just one of six team members or one of 50 convention attendees, is a mutually beneficial way to bolster your efforts to be a confident and engaging public speaker. Ask by a show of hands what they think of an idea, concept, or statistic. Tell them you want to hear about a particular problem they want solved, and incorporate answers and feedback.

In a more intimate setting like a meeting, raise your hand and speak loudly and clearly, but without sounding too argumentative.

When you become familiar with the topic at hand and the type of audience you’re speaking to, public speaking can become a fun and exciting way to grow your career!