By Rachell Newburn

No matter how often you speak publicly at work, it’s still a nerve-wracking experience for many. The recent Speak Up! Women’s Empowerment and Public Speaking Forum aimed to tackle that issue by offering a safe place for women to practice their public speaking skills and included a presentation by Deborah Lee, a professional speaking coach at Speak Your Best.

Before I discuss my key takeaways for becoming a more confident speaker, it’s important to understand why public speaking is difficult for many women. In American business culture, women have been subconsciously conditioned to defer to men; after all, the women’s movement to gain an equal footing in the workplace is still an issue being fought. As speaker Dr. Sues asked: How many times have you started a sentence with, “I’m sorry …”? Why are you sorry? For speaking? For existing in a meeting? When thought about in that way, it’s quite absurd that so many women speak this way. It often takes extra courage for women to speak up at work. Here are some tips on becoming a more confident speaker, from speaking coach Deborah Lee.

Focus on Your Message

Start by shifting your mindset from fear and anxiety to confidence and power. Write down your thoughts and make sure that your message is clear, concise and passionate. Focus more on what you want your audience to understand versus how you feel conveying the message.

Understand Your Audience

Honestly, no one wants to see you fail! No one will laugh at you; imagine how you would feel as an audience member and use that feeling to boost your own confidence as a speaker. Understand that every single person in the audience wants you to succeed. They’re here to learn from you, so give them what they need.

Manage Your Thoughts

Fight back against that negative voice in your head. Practice consistently turning a negative thought into a positive thought; pretty soon, you may notice the negative thoughts dissipating altogether. Also, remember that even if you do lose your place or stumble on a word, no speech is 100% perfect.

Visualize

Before the speaking engagement, visualize the way you want it to happen, down to the last detail. Act as if your visualization is the reality and envision a successful speech.

Present Yourself

Practice your presentation over and over again. Pay close to attention to your voice, posture and eye contact. Speak loudly with emotion, stand up straight, and make sure to look people in the eye for two to three seconds. It’s proven that practice makes perfect and you will lessen your anxiety with substantial preparation. Be sure to pace out your speech so you don’t speak too quickly, and memorize only your intro and conclusion so that the bulk of the presentation has a conversational tone. Also, consider investing in a professional speaking coach who can help you realize your weaknesses and will offer advice on how to strengthen your presentation skills.

Bottom Line

Be willing to put in the effort to become more confident in your speaking skills. Be authentic, passionate and genuine to capture your audience and deliver a strong message. Plus, it’s ok to ‘fake it ’till you make it’ — just keep practicing and you will ultimately become an empowered speaker.

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