How to Teach Anyone to Be a Confident Speaker

Believe you can and you’re halfway there. 

-Theodore Roosevelt

For most people, confidence seems like something you’re born with- or not. With this sort of black and white thinking, how can you change people’s perceptions about confidence? Is teaching confidence even possible? We think so. Whether you’re a professional development coach or a professor, there are certain strategies you can use to teach confidence in a budding public speaker.

Teach (and model) the basics of self-care

Self-care is an increasingly popular buzzword in the psychology community. Self-care is means taking care of yourself both physically and mentally. This is especially important to those who are afraid of public speaking to start with. For example, public speaking might be especially taxing for an introvert or someone with shyness. Prioritizing their own needs can counterbalance some of the stress of public speaking. While there is a popular aesthetic among college students and even overworked adults of the “all-nighter”, grinding yourself to the bone to get something done just isn’t the solution for a public speaker. Presenters should look relaxed, in their element, and unhurried- which means they need to feel that way too.

Here are some self-care starting points for public speakers:

  • Sleep! Lack of sleep can ravage your memory, and memory is key for giving good speeches.
  • Don’t forget to feed and water yourself. Hunger can drain your energy just as quickly as lack of sleep.
  • Don’t overload on stimulants like caffeine– it can be harder to slow down and take important pauses when you’re jazzed up.
  • Practice mindfulness– this could be a yoga class, meditation app, you name it. Taking time to reflect and relax, especially when preparing to tackle a stressful activity, can be key to approaching the experience in a more positive light.

Build up your expertise

One of the best ways to feel “in your element” on stage is to fully immerse yourself in the material you’re presenting. For reference, think about something you know a lot about. Could be your favorite TV show, favorite book, or even your favorite place to visit. Would you be confident talking to your friends about those subjects from the point of an expert? When teaching confidence, encourage new public speakers to practice presenting on one of these topics to build up their confidence. Once they feel confident presenting one subject, that confidence is easier to transfer to newer material.

Practice projecting confidence

You know the old saying, “fake it ‘til you make it”? That seems to be true when it comes to generating confidence. Projecting confidence has a reciprocal component of making you feel more confident. Enacting small behavioral changes can fulfill that effect- like standing up straight, smiling, and speaking more loudly. Dressing the part can go a long way towards feeling better about yourself too. When teaching confidence, encourage your students to wear something that makes them feel good when they practice presenting to further boost their confidence.