Public speaking will always be relevant. This art is ever-evolving thanks to technology, and has now evolved again in the form of Zoom meetings or seminars and similar virtual gatherings. Virtual or not, however, public speaking can be both challenging and intimidating — and can cause even the best to cast some doubt on their abilities. It’s a legitimate concern for every speaker, but one you can overcome through preparation. In particular, Stand Up Be Great public speaking coach Nancy Hardcastle recommends constant practice, with an eye on figuring out what best works for you.
Although training opportunities have all but dried up these past few months, Hardcastle recommends using this time to get better at the art of public speaking even while in the comfort of your own home. A good start would be to learn and master the physical cues that can make you more confident. These are cues you can control, and demonstrating them can be all sorts of empowering. You can start with these five:
1) Poses of Power
Psychologists from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg expounded on the concept of power posing in a recent study, where they detail how “power posing is the nonverbal expression of power.” The bolder the pose, therefore, the more power is exuded, which in turn bodes well for one’s self-esteem. Power posing, incidentally is a concept long espoused by social psychologist Amy Cuddy, who explains how poses of power also causes hormonal changes, such as an increase in testosterone and a decrease in cortisol. Needless to say, do practice poses that you believe show power, like standing upright with your arms crossed, leaning on a table firmly with both your arms, or standing straight with your hands on your hips.
2) Proper Posture
Proper posture is something often overlooked. And with the stay-at-home measures today, it’s likely you’ve spent lots of time hunched over while working from home or looking at your screens. That’s counter-intuitive in so many ways, as proper posture not only allows you to stay more productive, but it also makes you more alert and confident as a speaker — especially in virtual meanings. To get started, Pain Free Working’s guide to home ergonomics highlights the importance of keeping your feet flat on the ground and using a chair with a stable backrest. Additionally, you should aim to keep your back straight and avoid hunching over. Such simple cues can make a big difference in how you carry yourself, which will definitely come through during meetings and other public speaking engagements later on.
3) Chin Up
Looking down constantly exudes either an obvious lack of confidence or fear of something. That’s why Very Well Mind’s listicle of body language hacks recommends that you keep your chin up at all times, as it is a manifestation of undeniable self-belief. It can feel unnatural at first, especially if you’ve been so used to having your chin down. You’ll get used to it eventually, and you will exude confidence in the process.
4) Watch Your Hands
What you do with your hands says a lot about your confidence level. Keeping them in your pockets, for instance, shows anxiety, and makes you look unsure of yourself. Touching your face and neck, on the other hand, is a sign of uncertainty, and even fear. Instead, keep your hands out, then use them to make deliberate and authoritative hand gestures that complement or emphasise the important points you want to get across while speaking.
5) Be Aware of Your Facial Expressions
Lastly, each basic human emotion — anger, contempt, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise — is associated with a specific facial expression that you might exhibit unconsciously depending on how you’re feeling. That’s why it’s important to be cognisant of what you show your audience, as you’ll appear more self-assured if your facial expressions match everything you’re saying. Otherwise, you’ll look either disingenuous or anxious (or even both).