Building Self Confidence As You Speak

by Stephen Boyd | November 30, 2003

Even as experienced speakers there are times when we may not feel really comfortable giving a particular presentation. Sometimes a peer group can make us feel uncomfortable. Perhaps we are giving a presentation on a topic we have not addressed previously and our anxiety level rises. Here are some tips to combat these challenges.

Get to the speaking location early so that you can check out the equipment and room arrangement. Just this physical activity will help dissipate some of the anxiety. Arriving early will eliminate any nervousness you might have had about being on time.

Meet and greet audience members before the speech begins. This will relax you and help you to feel comfortable with the group. This will also encourage people whom you have met to smile at you as you begin speaking because they know you.

Whether driving to your speaking engagement or in your hotel room or office before you go the speaking room, practice aloud four or five minutes of the section of the speech that you may feel least secure about. This will give you added confidence besides helping you concentrate on the content of your talk instead of the circumstances which may be causing your anxiety.

Cultivate healthful activities before speaking. Get a good night’s sleep and eat foods that will give you energy. Avoid too much caffeine or sugar since those elements can add to your anxiety level.

If you are speaking to a group of peers, limit your topic to the material that you are truly an expert on and about which you will be providing new information for them. For example, if you are working on a group project, only discuss the areas you have been assigned to work on and do not expand to other areas.

Finally, careful preparation is essential if you want to have the greatest self-confidence. Start to work on the speech early enough that you don’t have to "cram" in preparing the materials. If you know the speaking situation is going to be awkward for you, spend more time than you normally do in preparation. Practice the speech several times—and practice with the notes you will actually use in the presentation.

Applying these suggestions will provide self-confidence and lessen anxiety before delivering that next speech.

About the Author

Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at To book Steve, call 800-727-6520 or email him through his website.

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