Speaking up isn’t always easy…
Whether it’s in group meetings, presentations, or even one-on-one – speaking with confidence at work can often be a difficult task to master. Not only do you have to think about what you say, you also have to focus on how you say it.
We’ve already covered what you should and shouldn’t do in presentations, but here are our top tips to help you speak confidently at work:
Identify your weakness
First things first, you need to figure out where you’re going wrong.
It could be that you feel don’t know enough about the topic, or you speak too fast. Or it could be that you gesticulate too often, or you just lack a bit of self-confidence.
There many issues that could get in the way of your ability to speak confidently. And the sooner you find out what they are, the sooner you can start working on them.
For example, if your hands are the problem, find a way keep them under control – whether it’s through holding onto a pen when you speak in meetings, or using a pointer or a keyboard during a presentation. Aside from avoiding excessive arm flailing, it’ll also give you something to focus on.
Just be sensible with what you pick up. Pen: good. Desk chair: bad.
Remember: no matter what the problem, there’s a way to overcome it.
Take a confidence course
We’ll let you into a little secret: nobody is born a perfect public speaker.
Even if you have the natural talent, it still takes time and effort to hone your skills. In fact, even the best public speakers (think politicians, actors and CEOs) have speech coaching – and it’s often because of this training that they’re so good at what they do.
In other words, even if speaking up isn’t your strong point, that doesn’t mean you can’t be taught.
There are a variety of public speaking and confidence courses available to help you learn the specialist techniques you need to make your words effective and engaging. Whether you do it part-time, full-time or distance learning.
And if a course dedicated to speaking up makes you feel anxious, don’t panic. Many are simply based on teaching you the techniques you’ll need to succeed, rather than focusing on the application alone.
Some courses don’t even involve speaking in front of large groups of people – as your training can often be done on a one-to-one basis.
Get rid of fillers
Let’s face it, no one’s going to listen to your point if it takes you years to get to it.
And although constant ‘umming and ahhing’ is a habit that’s tough to beat – it could be the reason you’re unable to speak confidently at work. After all, saying ‘like’ in between every word is unlikely to keep your colleagues engaged.
But it’s not just the listener that’s likely to be distracted.
Although you might think filling every gap with words is a good way to get ideas flowing – it won’t necessarily help you get to the point.
Instead, just be quiet. If you need time to think of what to say, simply pause and hold the silence until you’re ready to speak again.
Because whilst fillers are notorious for making people lose interest, a few moments of silence can actually be the best way to build tension and make your point really hit home.
When it comes to speaking in front of a group, nerves can often get the better of you.
This means you’ll do anything to make the awkward situation end sooner – even if it means talking at the speed of light; which can often result in a mumbled selection of words that don’t actually make that much sense.
Not only does talking too quickly indicate a lack of confidence, it also gives you less time to think through your words – meaning the likelihood of mistakes is higher.
But before you submit to full-on panic mode: breathe.
Taking the time to speak slower and more clearly will undoubtedly influence the quality of what you’re trying to say – reducing the need to ramble or go off topic.
Once you’ve figured out which areas you need to work on; it’s time to put your newfound techniques into practice.
Because even if you think you’ve learnt everything you need to overcome your weakness – you might find that your mind suddenly goes blank if you’re put in a stressful situation. And let’s face it, that won’t do anything for your self-confidence.
So to avoid any awkward moments, it’s vital to go over your tactics a few times before your next public speaking opportunity – whether it’s in front of a group of (understanding) friends and family, or even just in the mirror.
After all, you are often your worst critic.
That way, not only will you be well-versed in what to do, you’ll also figure out which areas you need to improve on.
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