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How to Become a Confident Speaker
Arriving in a new country can be intimidating. It’s normal to feel like you aren’t as confident about doing certain things that you were comfortable doing back home.
For example, you may feel intimidated to speak because you think your English isn’t perfect or because you speak with an accent.
How we communicate impacts many areas of our daily lives. Aside from perfecting your command of the language, it is important to build your confidence through other means to help you adapt quickly to your new surroundings.
Here are some ways to help you become a confident speaker:
Introduce Yourself to Everyone
As a newcomer, you may be scared of saying “hi” to people you don’t know because of the language barrier. Don't be scared! People tend to be polite and welcoming in Canada when greeting newcomers. A new study from Statistics Canada study on “social capital” indicates that newcomers who make friends outside of their ethno-cultural groups in the first six months are prone to earning higher salaries when they land jobs.
Authenticity over perfection. Remember, when it comes to public speaking, no one expects you to be perfect. People are meeting a human being, not a robot. Don’t be afraid to speak because of your accent. Embrace your accent and background, especially during interviews and networking events it can be a huge icebreaker and lead to awesome conversations after. Mention your country, your journey and if you think you need help, ask for it! If something doesn’t go as planned, embrace it. Make fun of yourself. A little self-deprecating humour never hurt anybody. Start to see your “weaknesses” as opportunities. It’s also very empowering to see someone on stage admit and laugh at themselves because something didn’t go as planned.
Use Humour to Build your Self-Esteem
Become a funny, confident public speaker by taking an improv or comedy workshop. Stand-up comedy can help you overcome the fear of public speaking by using humor as the primary tool. It can help you become a persuasive speaker, improve your presentation skills, and develop self-confidence - especially if you have an accent! A workshop like the Public Speaking Through Comedy Workshop can teach you tips and techniques on public speaking and how to use humor to turn mistakes into opportunities.
Practice reduces stress and increases your confidence. The biggest reason why people get nervous at interviews or presentations is because they didn’t practice. For a 5-minute speech, we recommend rehearsing at least 20 times (without notes) 48 hours prior to the event. It sounds like a lot, but it’s only 1 hr and 40 mins. of your time. You owe it to yourself to dedicate the time you need to perfect your delivery. Make sure you practice enunciating key words that are hard to pronounce. And if you just can't get the right pronunciation, try a synonym that is easier for you to say! After the 10th time practicing, you’ll start to see the speech evolve into a version that is more “YOU”. Your speech will sound more authentic, you’ll start adding body language, different voices, pauses, among other things. But unless you have it written out and you practice many times, it will not improve significantly.
Point Out the Elephant in the Room
It can be tough to present in public because of the language barrier - which affects communication. Even harder than communicating, is keeping an audience entertained. Making evident what’s already obvious will release tension in the room and make people laugh. It also confirms you are present, and in the moment. If you’re in a 30 person room delivering a presentation and someone sneezes very loudly and no one is paying attention anymore (because the sneeze was so loud it even scared some people), you’ve already lost everyone's attention in that moment. Think about it, they’re not listening. Instead, they’re looking back to see if the person is okay and needs a tissue. A great public speaker will recognize that lack of attention and point out the elephant in the room by simply saying “Are you okay? That was loud." Everyone will laugh. The person gets acknowledged. Now we can move on and everyone will pay attention.
Know Your Audience
If you're delivering a speech or presentation, research your audience. You can’t go to battle unless you know who’s on the other side. You can’t deliver a great speech unless you know who’s going to be listening. When possible, things like their degree of previous knowledge on the topic, preferences, interests, ethnic background and cultural beliefs, and other specifics will help you deliver your speech more effectively. Always ask the organizer, "who's going to be there?" If the organizer doesn't know (maybe it's a drop-in event), then arrive early to the venue and start analyzing the attendees. If you can’t arrive early or see who's there, once you're ready to speak to the audience don’t be shy to ask the room questions. For example, if you're doing a financial presentation you might say, "Raise your hand if you are from the finance department." "Raise your hand if you know what quantitative easing stands for." And to break the ice you might say" Make some noise if you love the Toronto Raptors!" These specific questions give you great insight in terms of who's there and will allow you to better connect with them on a more meaningful level. Always comment on their participation and poke fun at yourself/the situation if no one raises their hand.
Prepared by: MalPensando Public Speaking Through Comedy Workshops
July 31, 2019