You might have undergone lots of preparation before your big speaking engagement. You probably wrote a script, memorized at least the outline of the script, and then probably repeated what you memorized over and over again before a mirror.
Let’s face it, though.
No matter how much and how long you prepare, public speaking is just a different animal altogether. In one way or another, once you see that audience, you’re going to feel those butterflies in your stomach and that heart beating so quickly. Some might experience these to a lesser degree, but, you know, the nerves, as we call them, will still be there.
So, the relevant question in these situations is this: how do you at least exude confidence when you start speaking in public? Let’s answer that in this article. But first, let’s ask ourselves, why do we need to exude confidence when speaking in public in the first place?
Why Confidence Is Important in Public Speaking
Well, the short answer to that question is this: confidence ensures the success of your speaking engagement in the first place.
You see, confidence is key to speech delivery, and therefore, the success of the message delivery. Confidence is also the key to getting your audience to listen to you in the first place.
If you have no confidence when you’re talking, it's likely that you would stutter throughout your presentation. You might not be thinking clearly, which means the words that are coming out of your mouth might no longer make sense. The result is that you leave your audience even more confused than before.
Even if you do manage to sound coherent, your speaking engagement is still likely to end in failure. After all, people only listen to those they think are worth listening to. If they see you’re nervous, they’ll think you don’t know the subject matter in the first place. The result is that they won’t even bother listening anymore.
The first situation is probably no longer salvageable. The second, however, still is. All you need to do is fake confidence so that you’ll still have that perceived authority that will prompt people to still listen to you.
How To Fake Confidence in Public Speaking: 6 Tips
There are many ways you can fake confidence in public speaking. You don’t have to implement all these tips, though. Just pick one or two you think will work for you, then implement them on D-Day. If they worked, great! Make them a habit. If they didn’t, try other tips. Follow that same process until you find the perfect combination that works for you. You can even try following all tips if you want.
That said, here are some of the ways you can fake that confidence in public speaking even when you’re really just a nervous wreck:
1. “Scare” Your Audience
Before you act violently, just hear me out. Of course, I don’t mean you should literally scare them in the same way a horror movie would scare you. I just mean you need to make them see you as someone who has the authority to speak about that specific topic in the first place. That way, you’ll get them to listen to you. Check out the article "9 Tips for Presenting with Authority" for more detail.
So, when you face your audience, don’t slouch. Stand up straight. Make eye contact with them as much as you can. Act like you got this even if you feel like you don’t. That way, you won’t just convince your audience that you’re oozing with confidence. You might even convince yourself that you’re not nervous at all.
2. Speak Slowly
Nervous people have the tendency to speak really quickly and the members of your audience know exactly that. If they hear you speak at 1,000 words per minute (of course this is an exaggeration but you get the drift), they’ll think you just want to get the presentation over and done with. Their only assumption then is that you’re not confident in what you’re about to discuss with them.
To fake confidence, then, you need to speak slowly. You just need to be conscious of how you’re talking in the first place. If you suddenly feel like you’re going too quickly, slow down. Think of those pauses as your friend. Besides, if you speak this way, you give yourself more time to think about what you have to say in the first place. And when you get your line of thought back, you might even slowly really gain your confidence in front of your audience.
3. Use a Deep Voice
You shouldn’t just be conscious of the speed at which you’re speaking. You should be conscious of your tone of voice, too. According to Katie Schwartz, founder and currently the President Emeritus of the Corporate Speech Pathology Network, people who are nervous tend to speak at a high-pitched tone. That means, when speaking in front of your audience, you need to make sure your voice tone is deep.
Schwartz has a technique to help you determine how deep your voice should go. Say the word “uh huh” but it should sound like you’re saying it to a friend. According to the speech therapist, your voice tone when speaking should be exactly that. So, when speaking before your audience, make sure your voice tone remains consistent that way throughout.
4. Don’t fidget
Fight the urge to fidget because fidgeting is a sign of nervousness. As a general rule, fidgeting is anything that is done repetitively. So, shifting your weight from one side to the other, tapping your foot, biting your fingernails once every two minutes, and even touching your hair many times are all considered fidgeting.
You might ask, but how can I stop fidgeting if I’m not even aware that I’m already fidgeting in the first place? That’s the thing. You have to be conscious of your movements. Touching your hair once is fine. But touching it twice in a span of that many minutes should sound off some alarm bells. Listen to those alarm bells and the next time you raise your hand to touch your hair again, just stop yourself on time.
There’s another technique you can use to avoid fidgeting. According to Lisa Evans, a certified public speaking coach and trainer, all you need to do is avoid any unnecessary movements while on stage. Keep your hands to your side and raise them only when it just feels like it’s the natural thing to do at that moment. Also, make sure you don’t bring anything with you that might prompt any of this type of repetitive behavior. Your house keys, for instance, are better off in the car or somewhere else, not with you, because you might just end up playing with them.
Even if it’s hard, give your audience a smile once in a while. Your smile can be enough reassurance they need that you’re actually in control (even if you’re not). Faking positivity helps you exude that fake confidence you need to get your audience to listen to you.
Besides, smiling has other benefits. According to Dr. Sivan Finkle, a cosmetic dentist at New York City’s The Dental Parlor, even forcing a smile can help reduce the stress a person is feeling. Who knows? Maybe if you smile enough, you might even forget you’re feeling nervous and end up not feeling nervous at all.
6. Approach Your Audience
If you suddenly feel the urge to fidget around because of nervousness, why not approach your audience instead? Walk towards them slowly while you’re talking and fake as much as you can that you command the stage. You do two things when you use this approach. One, you, in a way, make yourself focus on other things apart from your nervousness, which increases your chances of, well, not being nervous at all.
And two, you give the audience a reason to not believe that you’re nervous at all. After all, who in her or his right mind would approach the cause of their anxiety in those situations in the first place? Only the confident ones, of course.
How To Fake Confidence in Public Speaking: In Closing
The truth is, public speaking is hard. That’s why even the most gifted speakers may tell you that they, too, become nervous when they get on stage and speak before an audience. It’s normal to become nervous in these situations. After all, that’s a lot of people you don’t know and you’ll be speaking to.
However, as a public speaker, you need to ensure that that nervousness doesn’t show. The success of your public presentation is on the line. If your audience sees you’re nervous, they’ll think you’re not confident about the material you’re about to present. That may make them conclude that you don’t have any authority to speak before them at all.
There are many ways you can fake confidence in public speaking. You learned six ways from this article. “Scare” your audience, speak slowly, use a deep voice, and refrain from fidgeting. Finally, smile and approach your audience.
Follow these tips and you’ll convince your audience enough that you’re oozing with confidence. Who knows? In the process, you might even start convincing yourself, too.
For more resources to develop your public speaking skills while you are in the comforts of your own home, please check the articles Online Resources for Public Speaking and Where Can I Learn Public Speaking. If you would like to leverage the best presentation software for your next big speaking engagement please read the article 'Best Presentation Technology tools'.