How to Become a Confident Speaker While Attending Online Universities
The shaking hands. The quivering voice. The paralyzing anxiety that sets in as you scan the sea of expectant faces.
If you fear public speaking, you are not alone. According to Psychology Today, it’s the No. 1 fear in America. Fear of death ranks No. 2.
Fortunately, virtually anyone can become a more confident speaker with practice. Public speaking opportunities can be scarce for online students, but learning the basics are a crucial skill as students venture into the workforce.
Here are some steps for getting started.
Identify your weaknesses
Do you have trouble being heard in a crowded room? Ever find yourself gasping for breath on those occasions when you’re called upon to speak in front of others? Develop your speaking muscles with breathing exercises to get in the habit of taking in more air when you talk. Voice strength training and warmups are methods anyone can use to improve their stamina and volume.
Are you comfortable talking with family but hesitant with co-workers? That’s actually a good sign. Work to overcome a fear of being judged and parlay that familial comfort level to speaking before an audience.
Don’t expect to go from gripping fear to unflagging confidence in a few days. Reaching that comfort level takes time, but it is possible.
For the intensely shy, working up the nerve to ask a stranger for the time can make their palms sweat. Start with this baby step and move on to other small social opportunities, like striking up a conversation while waiting in line. You’ll likely never see the person again, so their opinion of you doesn’t matter.
Next, work on your cocktail-party small talk. Pretend you’re a talk show host interviewing a guest. This technique lets you focus on something other than your nerves, plus it hones listening skills that are just as important a part of communication as speaking.
Whether you’re making a presentation at a meeting or a speech before a civic group, having command of the details goes a long way toward building confidence.
Outline your talk point by point. Research any areas where you’re uncertain. As the Mayo Clinic points out, the better you know your topic, the less likely you are to make mistakes that can turn your legs to Jello.
Organize your presentation, whether on your phone, note cards, or even a PowerPoint deck. Experts are divided on the subject of using PowerPoint, a good rule of thumb is to prepare notes that are separate from the presentation so that you’re not just reading the slides to your audience.
Speaking of notes, jot down enough to jog your memory, but not so much that you’re constantly looking down instead of interfacing with your audience.
Stand and deliver
There’s more to public speaking than your voice. Your entire body is part of the act.
Start by standing tall. This point is important for two reasons: you exude confidence, and good posture helps you breathe properly. Make eye contact with people in different parts of the room. If looking right at your audience is distracting, find a point at the back of the room and focus there. This little trick will make the audience feel that you’re talking to them, not at them.
Anyone can learn how to be a confident speaker with a little practice and preparation. The ability to communicate effectively doesn’t always come naturally, but it’s a skill that pays dividends in academic, professional, and even personal settings. Combining the physical and mental tips you’ve learned will go a long way to soothing your performance anxiety and give you greater confidence every time you’re called upon to make remarks.
Written by Ashford University staff.