As a budding entrepreneur, you may not be giving rehearsed speeches in front of a room full of businessmen, but you still deal with people on a daily basis. Even if you tend to meet one-on-one with clients, you need to learn how to project confidence when you speak. You are developing relationships with those involved in your business, and those relationships depend on respect and trust. How can anyone trust you if you mumble through meetings? And how can they respect you if it sounds like you don’t even care about what you’re saying? Here are some tips for speaking with enthusiasm, power, and confidence:
Hold Yourself High
Did your parents or teachers ever tell you to stop slouching? Well, you’re about to hear it again. Douglas Anderson, the president of Your Voice Coach consulting firm says in Entrepreneur magazine that, “Not only does slouching look like you couldn’t care less, but it also prevents your lungs from filling up.” Slouching or hunching makes you look either lazy and bored, or very shy and timid. When you are promoting your services to others, or discussing a project with a client, you never want them to think that you are nervous. That type of behavior suggests you lack confidence in yourself and the project, or worse, that you are not having a good time in your own business. Douglas Anderson also mentions that slouching restricts the air getting to your lungs. As I discuss below, breathing is a crucial aspect to staying composed and creating resonance in your voice.
So, how should you stand? With your back straight and your weight centered evenly over both feet. Shifting weight is a typical sign of nervousness. Pull your shoulders down to leave your throat free from tension. Keep your chin up- this will force you to make, and keep, eye contact.
Utilize Your Body Language
In this section I will mention some body language tips given by the video resources section on the Toastmasters International website. But first, I want to explain a little bit about Toastmasters.
Toastmasters is a great public speaking organization with over 14,000 clubs all over the world. Meetings run through peer-assessed public speeches in a friendly and helpful environment. Why should you care? Because Toastmasters is a nationally recognized group that can exponentially improve your public speaking skills. Once you learn how to talk in front of a room full of people evaluating your communication skills, you’ll be a pro at handling clients and conducting meetings.
The Toastmasters Gestures and Body Language video emphasizes that you should avoid nervous mannerisms (such as wringing your hands, shifting your weight, and adjusting your clothes) because it distracts the audience’s attention away from your intended message. Instead, you should practice and rehearse gestures that come naturally to you, but that still emphasize your point. The video categorizes helpful gestures and body language into four categories: descriptive, emphatic, suggestive, and prompting. In the video below, you can find out more about these groups.
By turning distracting mannerisms into useful body language, you will demonstrate confidence and ownership. You can also change your own attitude about yourself through body language! Check out Blossom’s “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.” Remember to keep eye contact as much as possible; it will make you and your audience more involved in the conversation.
Be sure to check out Speak with Confidence Part 2: Keep Calm and Carry On where I discuss calming your nerves while exercising your awesome vocal power.