If you really want to become a confident speaker, say goodbye to these 9 habits

Posted 21 Nov 2023, by

Lachlan Brown

Confidence while speaking isn’t about having a booming voice or flashy vocabulary. It’s all about ditching the habits that undermine your message.

As a speaker, you might not even realize you’re clinging to these habits.

They could be as subtle as a constant fidget, or as damaging as a self-deprecating comment.

Saying goodbye to these nine habits can transform how others perceive your confidence level when you speak. And more importantly, it can revolutionize how you feel about speaking, too.

Let’s dive into identifying these habits, understanding why they’re holding you back, and most importantly, learning how to kick them to the curb.

1) Filler words

One of the most common habits undermining your confidence as a speaker is the use of filler words.

You know the ones I’m talking about – “um,” “uh,” “like,” “so,” and “you know.” These little interjections creep into our speech without us even noticing.

The problem with these filler words isn’t just that they disrupt the flow of your speech. They also subtly signal to your audience that you’re unsure or unprepared. It’s as if you’re saying, “I don’t quite know what to say next, so I’m just going to throw in an ‘um’ while I think.”

Eliminating these filler words from your speech can dramatically boost your perceived confidence level. It’s not an easy habit to break, but with conscious effort and practice, you can become a more smooth and confident speaker.

Clarity and certainty in your speech can significantly improve your audience’s perception of your confidence. So say goodbye to those pesky filler words – your speaking confidence will thank you for it.

2) Negative self-talk

Negative self-talk is another habit that can seriously dent your confidence as a speaker. Trust me, I’ve been there.

I remember giving a presentation at a conference a few years ago. I was prepared and excited, but as soon as I stepped onto that stage, doubt started to creep in. “What if I mess up?” “What if they don’t like what I have to say?” “What if I forget my lines?”

This kind of negative self-talk is a surefire way to undermine your confidence. Instead of focusing on your message and connecting with your audience, you’re stuck in your own head, worrying about everything that could go wrong.

The key to overcoming this habit is to replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations. Instead of thinking “I’m going to mess up,” try telling yourself “I’m prepared and ready to deliver an excellent presentation.”

Changing the narrative inside your head, you can drastically improve your confidence as a speaker. It takes some practice, but once you master it, the difference is night and day.

3) Avoiding eye contact

Eye contact is a powerful tool in communication. It builds a connection with your audience and shows that you are confident and engaged. However, a surprising number of speakers avoid making eye contact.

A study published in the journal “Environment and Behavior” found that speakers who make eye contact with their audience are perceived as more persuasive, competent, and trustworthy. Yet, many speakers get nervous and end up either staring at their notes or scanning the room without actually focusing on anyone.

Make an effort to connect with your audience by looking them in the eyes. It not only boosts your perceived confidence but also helps create a bond with your listeners, making your speech more impactful.

Just remember not to stare – that can make people uncomfortable too. Find a balance where you’re making meaningful eye contact without making anyone feel like they’re under scrutiny.

4) Speaking too fast

Ever noticed yourself rushing through your speech when you’re nervous? We’ve all been there. Speaking too fast is a common habit that can undermine your confidence as a speaker.

When we speed up, our message can get lost in the flurry of words. Moreover, it signals to the audience that we’re anxious or uncertain, which can diminish their confidence in us.

Slow down. Take a breath. Allow your words to have the impact they deserve. It might even help to practice speaking slower than feels natural when you’re rehearsing – the nerves will likely speed you up on the day anyway.

By consciously controlling your pace, you present yourself as composed and confident, improving both your delivery and your audience’s perception of you.

5) Relying on notes

Let’s face it, we’ve all felt the safety of having our entire speech written out in front of us. But overly relying on your notes can hinder you from truly connecting with your audience.

When you’re constantly looking down at your notes, you not only break eye contact but also create a barrier between you and your listeners. It can make your delivery seem rehearsed and impersonal.

Try to use your notes as a guide rather than a script. Know your material well enough that you only need to glance at them occasionally for reminders.

This will allow you to engage more with your audience, appear more confident, and deliver a more compelling speech.

6) Forgetting to breathe

It might sound overly simple, but this one’s crucial: don’t forget to breathe.

So many of us hold our breath when we’re nervous, which only increases tension and anxiety. But the act of breathing – deep, intentional breaths – can calm us down and improve our performance.

Breathing is the life force that fuels us, and it’s especially important when we’re speaking. When you take the time to breathe properly, you ground yourself in the moment and give your words the power they need to resonate.

When you find yourself rushing through your speech or feeling your nerves spike, just breathe. It’s a simple but powerful way to restore your confidence and reclaim control over your delivery.

7) Avoiding vulnerability

There was a time when I believed that, as a speaker, I had to have all the answers. I thought my job was to be the expert, the one who always knew exactly what to say and do. But that mindset only added pressure and kept me from fully connecting with my audience.

The truth is, it’s okay not to know everything. It’s okay to admit when you’re wrong or unsure. It’s okay to be vulnerable.

Allowing yourself to be vulnerable can actually boost your confidence as a speaker. It takes courage to admit your shortcomings and share your personal experiences. But when you do, you build a deeper connection with your audience and present yourself as human and relatable.

Don’t shy away from showing your vulnerability on stage. It might just be your greatest strength as a speaker.

8) Ignoring feedback

Feedback is a gift, even when it stings. Ignoring feedback or taking it personally can hinder your growth as a confident speaker.

Whether it’s a comment about your pace, the structure of your speech, or your body language, feedback provides valuable insight into areas you can improve. Instead of seeing it as criticism, view it as an opportunity for growth.

By actively seeking and implementing feedback, you show dedication to bettering your speaking skills.

Over time, this commitment to improvement will manifest in increased confidence and stronger delivery.

So embrace feedback – it’s one of the most powerful tools for becoming a confident speaker.

9) Neglecting practice

There’s no shortcut to becoming a confident speaker. It takes practice. Lots of it.

You can read all the tips and tricks in the world, but unless you actually get out there and speak, your confidence won’t improve.

Each time you practice, you’re not just working on your delivery. You’re also building resilience, learning to handle nerves, and getting comfortable with being in the spotlight.

So get out there and start speaking. The more you do it, the more confident you’ll become. Trust me on this one – practice is everything.

Embracing the journey

At the heart of becoming a confident speaker, lies the courage to confront and conquer our fears and habits.

Each of these nine habits we’ve discussed is not just a hurdle to overcome, but also a stepping stone towards greater self-awareness and growth.

Consider this: research from Glossophobia, commonly known as fear of public speaking, indicates that nearly 75% of people suffer from speech anxiety. That’s three out of every four people! You’re not alone in this journey.

But here’s the beautiful part: each time you step up to speak – whether it’s in front of a crowd, at a meeting, or even in a one-on-one conversation – you’re taking another step towards becoming that confident speaker you aspire to be.

So embrace your imperfections, celebrate your progress, and remember – confidence isn’t a destination, it’s a journey. And every step you take on this journey is a step towards finding your voice and making it heard.

So here’s to you, the courageous speaker-in-the-making. Here’s to your journey.

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