Recently, a former online Communication student in one of my classes wrote he wanted to practice becoming more confident when he spoke to strangers. He was wondering just how he might be more relaxed when he talked to people he met for the first time. Was there any technique he could employ on a weekly or - let's get ambitious here! - even a daily basis?
And after a week of discussion on effective presentation techniques, I realized this was not an isolated concern. Several other students began to speak (or type) up about reservations they had when meeting persons for the first time and wanting to exude confidence in their language.
We arrived at this conclusion ...
We are constantly on a stage, and we all make presentations every single time we speak. Think about it. Each time you communicate, there is a definite purpose in mind no matter the size of you audience: your intent is to inform, persuade, or entertain. And each time you present, each time you speak, you want to show up and be mememorable. Why wait until you have a rare instance of having to make a formal presentation to sound and look confident?
The decision we made was, going forward, if you are on the phone or in person, pretend you are making a presentation. That was the very simple everyday change we could make. Pretend the quality of what you say is being closely evaluated and that you will be given a rating afterwards for the effectiveness of your message.
Okay. Okay. Okay.
That may seem like a bit of an intense way to look at it.
So how about this?:
Whether you are talking to
the cashier at the local grocery store,
the teller at the bank,
the teacher at your child's school,
the attendant at the gas station,
the barista at the coffee shop,
the employee at the theatre,
*the waiter at a local eatery ...
stand (or sit) with your shoulders back; head up; eyes focused on the listener; using a clear voice, carefully chosen words, and proper gestures/nonverbal communication ...
For when you have your shoulders back, it tells your listener what you have to share is important.
When your head is up, it sends the message you are proud of what you have to say.
When your eyes are focused on your listener, it shows your attention is respectfully focused on him/her and not anyone or anything else.
When your voice is clear and when you take charge of the words you selected, you show you care about ensuring the listener understands your message.
When you use proper gestures, then you demonstrate a passion for and confidence in your message; your entire body, mind, and heart are in what you say. And in most instances, your listener cannot help but to feel and sense that passion and confidence.
So, everyone, here is your homework: Be more conscious every time you speak, and see the difference. You all remember those exercises where you dressed professionally, then visited an establishment and observed how you were treated differently. This is similar to that. Observe how you are better able to hold your listener's attention as well as how much more confident you feel when you use grammatically correct language while looking the other person in the eye, using all the proper body language. (And a great resource to add to your bookshelf is Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln: 21 Powerful Secrets of History's Greatest Speakers!)
If you accept the challenge, then please return to this blog post to share a comment and let us know how it went!
Check out this link for more ideas on improving your public speaking!
*And, seriously, think about this one: when people place orders, how often do they make it a point to give the waiter or waitress eye contact? Usually, they are looking at and talking to their menus rather than actually looking at the person taking the order; try this next time: look at the menu to confirm your selection, THEN turn to address the member of the waitstaff, looking him/her in the eyes. It really makes a difference.