This holiday season, give a gift that makes an impact. Buy Speak with Impact: How to Command the Room and Influence Others for your friends, family members, or teammates. Now available at a discount on Amazon and elsewhere. Here is an excerpt.

In my experience, confidence is one of the most important components of public speaking. If you are confident, the audience will forgive a few filler words or mistakes. If you are confident in your subject and in yourself, your audience is more likely to have confidence in you. This is not the same as arrogance or bluster. It’s not about showing the audience that you are better than they are; it’s about a deep conviction in your own value and your ability to deliver.

How do you find and build confidence? In The Confidence Code, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman interview experts who say that genes account for anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of our confidence.[1] Still, there is so much we can do to build it. When my team and I discuss this subject during workshops, we divide it into two areas: what builds confidence, and what demonstrates confidence.

What builds confidence? Take a minute and think about that question. You feel more confident when:

  • Someone validates your work. That’s why, in our workshops, we always emphasize what people do well before we talk about what to improve. It’s also important to realize that people in the audience want you to do well.
  • You’ve experienced success in the past. That’s why the more successful speeches you give, the better you feel.
  • You know your subject and have the right skills. That’s why public speaking training is so important.
  • You have practiced and prepared. That’s why speaking off the cuff is so nerve-racking.
  • You feel a sense of purpose around why you do what you do.
  • You value yourself and what you bring to the speech.

Which of the above areas do you need to focus on to build your confidence? Notice that some of these areas depend on other people, not on you. How can you play a confidence-building role for others in your life?

Now let’s look at what demonstrates confidence. Picture a truly confident speaker in your organization or in your community. Maybe it’s a CEO or a political leader. What makes him or her appear confident?

  • When meeting someone, it’s their firm handshake and direct eye contact.
  • If they’re speaking in public, it’s the meaningful hand gestures they use, a tall but relaxed posture, and eye contact with the audience.
  • You can hear confidence in someone’s voice. Instead of shaking and inaudible, a confident voice is clear and calm. It doesn’t have to be loud, but it’s strong and well supported.
  • You feel it in someone’s presence. It resonates around them like an energy and touches the audience.
  • People who are confident speak at a fluid pace instead of rushing too fast or pausing too often.

What do you notice in this list?

Confidence comes across more in nonverbal communication than in the words themselves. It’s an energy that affects the words. But the right words (and authentic language) will affect that energy.

Focus first on what builds confidence, then focus on what demonstrates confidence. Essentially, you have to build your confidence in order to show it.

What exercises will help you build your confidence?

You will find three exercises in Chapter 7 of my book. In addition, watch the video below for 5 ways to calm your nerves right before a speech.

[1] Kay, Katty, and Claire Shipman. The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know. HarperCollins, 2014.