12 Steps To Display Confidence When Speaking

Displaying confidence, whether for a speech or conversation, requires work - inside and out. There are steps you can take to both be more confident and appear more confident.

by Deedra Abboud in Mindset, Solutions
April 13, 2016 0 comments

With confidence, you have won before you have started. – Marcus Garvey, Jamaican political leader

Confidence is like a magnet. It pulls other confident people to you. It also attracts opportunities.

But not everyone feels confident all the time. Do not kid yourself that the great leaders you admire have never had self-doubt – or that they never did again after they reached “success.” To be successful, to be taken seriously, you have to display confidence – even when you don’t feel it as much as you would like.

Displaying confidence, whether for a speech or conversation, requires work – inside and out. You will forever be overlooked for opportunities if you are unable to project enough confidence in yourself, your abilities, and your ideas to get noticed. But there are steps you can take to both be more confident and appear more confident.

Be Prepared

I’ve always considered myself to be just average talent and what I have is a ridiculous insane obsessiveness for practice and preparation. – Will Smith, actor

The more you prepared you are, the more confident you will feel and others will see you. Imagine yourself giving the speech or making the pitch.

What points do you need to make?
What visuals or handouts would help you make your point?
Would props help bring the point home?
Who is your audience? Experts or peers in the same field? People in a different profession?
Should you focus on the overview or the details?
Considering the audience, how technical should you be?
Have you considered what the audience really wants to hear might be different than what you want to talk about?
Can you add a little humor to lighten things up?

Know Your Subject

Knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly, or it vanishes. – Peter Drucker, author

There is no substitute for knowledge about your subject. The more you know, or the more perspective you see about the subject, the more confident you will both feel and seem. Notes or visuals can be helpful, but do not read from a powerpoint or paper. Look at the audience, group, or person. Just speak. Anyone can read, you speaking from your head will be most effective in demonstrating that you know what you are talking about.


Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice reduces the imperfection. – Toba Beta, Master of Stupidity

Whether in a mirror or to other trusted people, practice speaking about your topic or just pubic speaking in general. Record yourself speaking and review it for self-analysis. Do not focus on what your voice sounds like (everyone sounds odd on voice recordings) and do not expect perfection. You can outline the points you want to make but the worst thing you can do is try to memorize and recite. Know the information and then just talk about it.

Create Stacks of Ten

I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble. – Helen Keller, author

Every project or task can be broken up into smaller pieces, stacks-of-ten, so that they are more manageable. Breaking topics into stacks of ten can help you discuss larger complex subjects in more digestible ways. Even research and study of an industry can be broken into stacks of ten so that you can identify the details and maybe discover new perspectives or relationships. Everything you can do that makes you feel accomplished, like completing tasks divided into stacks of ten, will boost your mood, increase your motivation, and make you feel more confident.

Focus on the Positive

Over the years, I’ve learned that a confident person doesn’t concentrate or focus on their weaknesses – they maximize their strengths. – Joyce Meyer, author

Focusing on your weaknesses and always being in self-improvement mode results in losing focus on your strengths and failing to capitalize on them. Just trying to improve the negative without improving the positive is self-defeating and limits your real potential. Consider what you do right rather than just what you do wrong.

Redefine “Wrong”

I love the area between right and wrong. – Dan Brown, author of Da Vinci Code

Leaving something out of a speech or failing to make a point is not wrong. Perhaps the other points you made were more important at that time. Consider what you contributed instead of what you forgot.

Speak with Confidence

We called him ‘mumbles.’ He didn’t speak his words very loud. The sound man was always saying, ‘Kid, speak up!’ But he mumbled his way to a fortune. [on Clint Eastwood] – Sheb Wooley, actor and song writer The Purple People Eater

Do not mumble. Project your voice appropriately for the situation. Speaking one-on-one is different than speaking to a crowded boardroom table.

Pay attention to how many “ums”and “ahs” you use. They interrupt flow. Silent pauses are better if you need to get your thoughts together.

Use pauses to emphasize ideas.

Act the Part

The most beautiful thing you can wear is confidence. – Blake Lively, actress

While there is no substitute for knowledge, there is for confidence. You can act confident even when you do not feel it so much. The more you act confident, the more you will feel confident. It really is immaterial whether that is because you are changing the way you think or simply feeding off how others interact with you as a confident person. It works. Do it.

Show Up and Take Risks

The biggest risk is not taking any risk . . . In a world that changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks. – Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook

Be proactive in meeting new people. Introduce yourself. Ask questions of others. Everything does not have to be about work or advancement. Let people get to know you and get to know others. The best connections that result in the best rewards are often started from casual and sincere conversations.

Be Solutions-Oriented

Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer. – Denis Waitley, motivational speaker

By focusing on solutions rather than obstacles and blame, you will solve more problems, adding value to your company and your life. People can be held accountable and the source of problems can be corrected later. Finding solutions will give you a boost of positive feelings about yourself (confidence), will make others see you as a problem-solver, may change your perspective about who or what caused the problem, and gives you time to address the source of the problem with more emotional intelligence.

Bring Something New To The Conversation

Pay attention to small interesting details. You do not need to know everything, or even more than your audience, you just need to know enough to share information in your voice and from your perspective.

In high school, I had to write a term paper about how a scientific discovery changed the way the world operated. Our teacher was a big fan of Louis Pasteur and his discovery of pasteurization. She talked about it all year and considered herself an expert. When she made the assignment, the vast majority of the class chose to write their paper on Louis Pasteur.

I immediately saw the problem with that choice. Every missed detail was seen as a glaring omission and resulted in points off. Every slightly misrepresented statement was identified and resulted in points off. Every opinion that was different than her’s resulted in points off.

I chose Eli Whitney and the cotton gin. She knew nothing about the topic, so every detail was interesting, every opinion was refreshing.

You do not need to choose a topic no one knows anything about, and often among peers that would be impossible anyway. However, you can always find a minor detail, little-known story, or a different way of explaining something.

Bring something new to the conversation, no matter how small, and others will be impressed with your “vast” knowledge of the subject. At the very least, they will find your conversation entertaining because it included something different.

Dress the Part

Whether we like it or not, every single person is a brand. Your image is like the business card you are leaving with others. What does your personal business card, or brand, look like?

Consider the image you want to project and determine whether your clothes project that image. This is not about expensive or formal clothing. This is about image. The image of employees of Google is different than the image of an attorney in front of a judge – and the image can change according to different situations or activities.

I shared the stage with another speaker who did not understand the business card she was leaving.

The event was in front of a large group of professional women. Public speaking was not her profession but she had worked on her delivery and her subject was interesting. Her credentials were exemplary, positions with government and the corporate world.

But everything about her was casual. Casual, almost hippy, baggy clothes and a hairstyle that looked like she had been cleaning house all day.

There is nothing wrong with how she dressed or presented herself if the impression she wanted to leave was that she was just a common woman with a story. No doubt her skills were impressive considering her advancement. But what opportunities passed her by because others only saw her as common? Without hearing her bio, no one would even suspect she was a confident and accomplished woman based on the personal “business card” she presented.

Common people with a story may be interesting for an evening, but they will rarely be remembered for opportunities. However, unique does get remembered. Common is different than unique. Even “hippy” and casual can be unique, it just depends on how it is presented and to whom.

By all means, let your personality and attitude be reflected in your clothing. Just consider whether your clothing expresses the best parts of your attitude and personality – and whether your clothing choices are positively or negatively affecting your brand. Your personality does not need to consume your wardrobe choices, just small touches can demonstrate your uniqueness. Know your audience and what impression you want to leave.

In his book, Keynote Mastery: The Personal Journey of a Professional Speaker, Patrick Schwerdtfeger says you have to look the part you are wanting to play, dress for success and avoid anything that distracts from that image – be distraction free.

Consider your brand, your personal business card, how you want to contribute to how others see you; in conjunction with who your audience is and what resonates with them, or even repels them. Dress the part you want to play in the world and tailor it according to who, what, when, where, and how.

Being true to you, while being true to where you want to go in life, is another balance.

But in the end, the best advice is to prepare to the best of your ability and be confident – and then just relax. Don’t beat yourself up over every minor detail. You will get better every time you practice, whether in private or live.


Do you beat yourself up over every minor detail or imperfection?

How much time do you spend recognizing your strengths and accomplishments? Have you ever listed them out? Do you work on improving your strengths or just your weaknesses?

Have you ever shared a little-known story or idea about a subject? Did other’s eyes light up with interest or did it spark a conversation? Have you thought of researching any tidbits about your industry or subject that would make good stories or examples?

Have you thought about your personal brand or business card? Are you representing yourself well for where you want to see yourself in the future?

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