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5 Tips for Projecting Confidence

Posted by Melissa Grey Satterfield on 4/25/13 4:00 AM
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It happens every four years in the United States; it’s time for the presidential election. A crucial part of any election campaign is the debate between the candidates. This is the candidate’s chance to persuade the voters, inspire trust, and ultimately get votes. A debate can be highly competitive, and when competition is fierce, projecting confidence can tip the scales in the speaker’s favor.


As a speaker myself, I found myself critiquing the public speaking skills of the candidates rather than their policies. After watching (and critiquing) the first two debates during this recent presidential election cycle, I felt compelled to research public speaking (specifically, speaking with confidence), to see what the experts had to say. One such expert is Carole Hale Alter, author of The Credibility Code (one of my favorite books on public speaking).

Her book outlines five simple steps for speaking with confidence. And while you may not be planning on running for President of the United States, chances are you’re a training professional and/or a public or motivational speaker who not only needs to be competent, but has to look competent. Below are Ms. Alter’s five essential tips for projecting confidence and competence:

Keep your head level. This means no raising or dropping your chin, which can appear either aggressive or submissive.

Speak with optimal volume. If you’re a Seinfeld fan, you’ll remember the “low-talker” episode. Even in business, people often speak too softly or drop their volume at the end of sentences. Recognize the difference between adequate and optimal volume. Use a microphone if you’re soft-spoken (like the Presidential candidates do).

Hold eye contact for three to four seconds. Eye contact is a key indicator of confidence. Yet there is a difference between making eye contact and holding eye contact. Duration is critical! In the Western world, holding eye contact for three to four seconds is optimal.

Keep your hands in the gesture box. In poker, a “tell” is a subtle signal revealing the strength or weakness of a player’s hand.

Gestures can be telling to others. The most effective hand gestures happen inside the “gesture box,” no higher than your sternum, no lower than your hips, and no wider than your shoulders.

Avoid using speech fillers or uptalk. Fillers are superfluous sounds or words, such as “um” and “you know.” Uptalk is misplaced upward vocal inflections that sound like question marks at the end of sentences. Today, both vocal patterns are widespread in our culture. Be vigilant in not picking up these habits, as both can erode your credibility.

Experts agree that watching and critiquing other speakers (be it the Presidential candidates or others) can be helpful for your own growth and development. But when it comes right down to it, there’s nothing like actually doing. Practice, Practice, Practice! Consider attending our one-day workshop, “Polish Your Presentation Skills,” for practical application and valuable feedback. I, uh, hope to, uh um, see you in a workshop like, uh, soon!

How do you use instructional techniques or presentation skills to project confidence?

Melissa has been a course leader with Langevin since 2000. She graduated from the University of Nevada where she studied broadcast communications. During her college years, Melissa worked as an on-air personality for several radio and TV stations in Las Vegas. She’s always been a bit of a performer, which is probably why training is such a good fit for her. Before coming to Langevin, she was a senior training specialist and course developer for an organization based in L.A. Melissa knows the challenges trainers face, as well as the rewards that come with improving job performance. Her training mantra is summed up best by something she learned during her very first Langevin workshop, “Never do for the learners what the learners can do for themselves.” When not in the classroom, Melissa loves travelling, relaxing at the beach, cooking, and hosting dinner parties.

Topics: instructional techniques, presentation skills, tips-for-trainers

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