5 ways to be confident when public speaking

Experiencing anxiety and fear about speaking in public is very real for a lot of people. In How to Own the Room, Viv Groskop explores the art of brilliant speaking with empowering tips to help you speak up.


1. Embody happy high status

Happy high status is the art of embracing your status as a speaker, stepping up to the challenge and taking on the task in a calm and relaxed way. Viv looks to Michelle Obama as someone who has happy high status for her ability to ‘occupy the highest and most prestigious spot in the room while talking to charity workers, the homeless, hip hop stars and the Queen all in exactly the same way.’

Put it into practice

  • Reflect on how you can bring happy high status to your speaking. Avoid making quips that put yourself down (this undermines your status) and use anecdotes and the intonation in your voice to build connection with your audience.
  • Embody the posture of happy high status, whether you’re sitting or standing: a straight spine, grounded feet and relaxed movements.

2. Project presence

According to Viv, ‘while status confers the external message that you are ready to lead and other people should pay attention to you, presence is the projection of how you are feeling right here, right now.’ Body language is a huge giveaway to how we’re feeling on the inside, but adopting the right posture can ‘trick your brain into feeling confident, so that you can relax and be present.’

Put it into practice

  • First reflect on how you’re feeling internally in order to project presence. Use a meditation app such as Headspace, to help calm any racing thoughts and help bring you back to the present moment.
  • Use your body and your breath to get grounded. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, send your breath into the soles of your feet and imagine drawing your breath up and down the length of your body.

3. Be true to you

What kind of a speaker are you? How should you deliver your words in a way that feels true to yourself? Viv advises ‘There is a huge lesson in finding your own path, working it out for yourself, ignoring what everyone else is doing, and not bothering about being likeable.’ Be authentic and seek out the speaking opportunities that feel aligned with you.

Put it into practice

  • The above requires self-belief. To help develop this, Viv recommends putting pen to paper for two minutes and writing ten things about yourself that make you feel proud. When you’re done, read them through and allow the feeling of pride to sink in. Then set another timer for twenty minutes and write forty things. Whenever you feel yourself sinking into self-doubt, take some time to look at your list of 50 proud moments.

4. Get inspired by others

From Oprah Winfrey to Joan Rivers, throughout the book Viv celebrates a range of inspirational female speakers and their many unique ways of owning the room.

Put it into practice

  • Put some time aside to watch TED talks and YouTube speeches. Note the bits you like and don’t like, and the qualities that make each talk successful or unsuccessful.
  • Look out for the speakers whose style resonates with you and reflects what you aspire to.

5. Make it happen

Exercises can help us prepare, but the best way to get better at owning the room is to do it. Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking spent a year pursuing speaking opportunities in the run up to her book launch, despite being an introvert. And if you’re worried about having something to talk about? Remember this advice from Susan: ‘there is zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.’

Put it into practice

  • Start small with offering to do a toast at a gathering. Viv says: ‘Get used to silencing a room and having everyone turn to look at you.’
  • And when it comes to ideas, ‘put your best ideas forward even if, right now, you don’t think you’re the best talker. The more you talk about your ideas publicly the better they will sound.’

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