Whether you’re speaking to motivate your team to be fully engaged at work, inspire a group of startup founders or convince higher-ranking executives of the need for change, much of your success will depend on how well you were able to demonstrate your credibility.

Trust is a huge factor in public speaking success. From conference keynotes to boardroom presentations, the question on the audiences’ minds is, “Why should we believe you?” It is your responsibility as the speaker to establish your credibility with the audience. Until the audience can buy into you, they won’t buy into your ideas.

One of the most effective ways to build trust with your audience is by exuding confidence on stage. A confident speaker says to the audience, I know my stuff, I’ve done my research. I have the experience. I know this idea works and I’ll help you see it too.”

When the audience perceive confidence in a speaker, they sit up to listen. If you find yourself struggling with nerves just before you step on the podium and during your speech and would like some ideas on how to rein your butterflies in, you’re in luck. Here are five ways to exude confidence on stage, build credibility, and connect with your audience:

Stay Grounded

Nervous speakers often exhibit distracting mannerisms like swaying back and forth, fiddling with their clothes or keys. To show poise on stage, you need to get your posture right. Stand firm and tall. A good trick is to stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Avoid walking haphazardly on stage. Let your movement add to your message, not detract or distract from it.

Maintain Eye Contact

Nothing screams “I’m unsure”, “don’t believe a word I say”, or “I’m lying” like shifty eyes or avoiding eye contact completely with your audience. If you want to show confidence on stage, maintain eye contact with your audience. Not only does proper eye contact help you project confidence and build credibility, but it also helps you create an emotional connection with your audience. 

Stand in the Light

Your audience will be more willing to engage with your presentation when they can see you. As the speaker, you are the star of your performance. Make sure the stage is well lit (and/or that the light is on you). While your audience need to see your slides – if you’re using one – you are the one who brings life to your message. They need to see you more. Your gestures, facial expressions, and animations all add to boost your stage presence. Never stand in the dark corners of the stage. Do not let anything shield your light. 

Project your Voice

Confident speakers are not afraid to be heard. Remember, that’s why your audience have gathered there – to hear you speak. Avoid murmuring or speaking incoherently. This makes listening to you hard and your presentation boring. What you want to do is to speak loud and clear enough so the person on the last row can hear you. When you do this, you elevate the energy in the room and captivate your audience’s attention with the power of your voice.

Don’t Use Fillers

Filler words like umm, erm, you know, detract from your credibility. They show unpreparedness, incoherency, and a lack of confidence. Eliminate them from your speech. How can you achieve this? Sometimes, while speaking, you may go blank. When this happens, you may be tempted to fill in the silence with umm or erm, but don’t. Instead, pause. 

For example, if you wish to make the statement, “Employees are vital to any business as worker bees are to a hive. But people don’t generally serve any employer with blind loyalty,” and then you blank out somewhere in the middle of that. Instead of using fillers, e.g., “Employees are vital to any business as worker bees are to a umm, umm, umm, hive. But people don’t generally umm, umm, serve any employer with blind loyalty.” The best thing to do is to pause, that is: “Employees are vital to any business as worker bees are to a (pause) hive. But people don’t generally (pause) serve any employer with blind loyalty.”

Improving your public speaking confidence is like building a muscle – the more you exercise, the stronger it becomes. Thus, I like to say to my coaching clients, “Practice like you’ve never spoken before.” Practice makes perfect. If you wish to exude confidence on stage and inspire trust, you must know your material in and out. That takes practice. Invest time practicing your speech several times before you deliver it to a live audience. Practice telling the stories that support your main points, discussing any product demos you’ll present, and so on. The more you practice, the more comfortable you become with your speech. Greater comfort equals less anxiety.

There’s a poular saying that one should “fake it till you make it.” I prefer to say, “fake it till you become it.” No matter how anxious you feel on the inside, keep calm and collected on the outside using the tips above. 

 

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