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Poise and Confidence When Speaking in Public

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 9 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Business Speeches Poise Confidence

Public speaking is something that many people find easy and enjoyable but it can strike the fear of God into others and business speeches are no exception. We cover the actual fear of making business speeches in a separate article in this section so here we will talk about keeping your poise and confidence when faced with a business speech.

The Appearance of Confidence

The first thing about confidence during a business speech is to remember that showing confidence has the same effect as being confident, at least for the people watching. Many of the speakers that you see looking confident are probably quaking in their boots and thinking that they are about to collapse in a shambles. But when people say that that doesn't show, they really mean it.

Armed with this knowledge the job of acquiring poise and confidence becomes simpler as it becomes one of appearing to be confident. This sounds a bit crazy, and probably wouldn’t be countenanced by a psychologist, but for the purposes of acquiring the necessary poise and confidence to deliver business speeches it will work. In time and with practice, the end result is that people do actually become more confident.

Body Language

The key is to concentrate on practising and developing body language that gives off an air of confidence. In one-to-one situations the advice here would be about giving firm handshakes, maintaining eye contact and listening carefully when you are being spoken to.

Of course none of that can apply in the context of a business speech, when one person is talking to an audience. You need therefore to address the crowd in a way that shows you are in control but without appearing threatening.

Make a Good Start

Start with preparing before you walk on with some deep breathing exercises, or any other method of relaxation that you prefer. A simple one is to count off four seconds as you breathe in and another four as you breathe out. Relax your body muscles, have a stretch if you can and then relax each part of your body as you breath.

When you are introduced - you need to walk up to the podium purposefully, smoothly, not too fast and not too slow. Don’t confuse purposefulness with speed; rushing up to the podium will look odd and you won't have time to gather your thoughts.

Addressing the Crowd

Try not to stare down at your notes or a screen but look up as much as possible and sweep the room. If you don’t feel comfortable going around the room, engaging different individuals in eye contact in turn, look at a point at the rear of the room slightly above everyone's heads.

If you are worried about losing your place in your notes while you are looking at the audience, arrange your hands on the podium or lectern so that you can move a finger to mark your spot and get back to it easily without anyone seeing.

Vocal Control

The voice can be a bit of a giveaway for people who aren't confident speakers. Try to keep it level and if you feel it beginning to wobble, stop for a second a take a few deep breaths. Although the wobbling is caused by stress, the physical cause is being short of breath, so this should bring things back to normal.

If you are concerned about how this will appear, disguise it with a cough, take your breaths, apologise for coughing and move on.

Practice Makes Perfect

Like anything else the more you rehearse these techniques, the easier they are to put into action and the more likely you are to remember them. Try asking friends or family to listen to you or video your practice sessions and play them back to see how you look.

In time the poise and confidence will become second nature and your business speeches more effective as a result.

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