What people want most from communication coaching is the ability to appear, sound, and be confident. We all know when we see a confident communicator and when we don’t. Sometimes a speaker will say they felt confident but they are not perceived that way. Sometimes people will be very self-deprecating about their confidence, and their listeners didn’t see that at all. We are always trying to close the gap between self-perception and reality.
It’s important to remember confidence is a transient condition even though everyone talks about it as a concrete destination. ALL speakers have felt their confidence come and go. Everyone has experienced a disconnect between their perception of self and their listeners’ perception.
There are three skills you could focus on right now that will help you to feel and appear more confident to your listeners:
Volume – Confident speakers have the same volume at the end of their sentence and sometimes raise the volume if they are making a stronger point. We often observe speakers with the habit of having their voice trail off at the end of a sentence, taking power out of the words and making the listeners work harder to hear. Record yourself speaking and listen back for this to see if you have this pattern. If you do, correct it by making yourself repeat the sentence and increase the volume to develop unconscious competence.
Pauses – A VERY underutilized and simple tool. We call them UN-vocalized pauses, which means avoiding sounds like ‘umm.’ The 1-3 second pause right before you make a significant point or start a new topic is better for your listeners. The pause makes you appear confident and in control rather than the mindset of ‘I just want to get through it,’ which causes people to speak fast with no pauses. Speaking quickly not only appears unconfident, it can also make you look green and unpolished. Record yourself when you are speaking and listen back for where a pause would be impactful and helpful. When preparing, make a note of where to pause to remind yourself to take two seconds before proceeding.
Rate – This harkens back to my last point of ‘wanting to get through it’ and speaking quickly to do it. Think about your listeners. Is this the first time they are hearing this information? Is it technical or complicated? Do you need to persuade? What will be most helpful to the listener? Have people told you that you speak too fast? Are you often asked to repeat what you said or slow down? The goal is not to speak slowly, but instead to use different rates where appropriate. Changing the rate engages the listener. If you are doing a quick review, you can speed up. If you are introducing a new technical term, say it slowly. Review your content, thinking about the rate, and how you can be more effective and flexible. Some people speak too slowly, which can put your listeners to sleep. The key is to vary the rate appropriate to the content, knowing that it may feel uncomfortable if you have developed the habit of speaking at the same speed all the time.
There are many different ways to demonstrate confidence when speaking. However, it’s best to focus on one skill, practice it, and begin to integrate it into your new, more effective communication. We are always here to help. Investing in your communication skill development can have a significant impact on your professional success.