Presentation skills: 10 ways to boost your confidence

By Kat Knights writer, tutor and mentor at Professional Academy

If the thought of speaking in front of a group of people fills you with fear, help is at hand. Public speaking is a valuable lifelong skill but, like any skill, it must studied and purposefully practiced in order for it to remain sharp. Overcome your presentation fears and boost your confidence by following these 10 simple tips.

1. You are your own worst critic

No one will judge you as harshly as you judge yourself. In his book, The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale includes 10 ways to boost confidence levels and tells his readers that: ‘Nobody can be you as efficiently as YOU can. Remember also that most people, despite their confident appearance and demeanour, are often as scared as you are and as doubtful of themselves.’ Be kind to yourself and remember that other people want you to succeed.

2. Purpose

What’s your ‘why’? What is the key message you want people to take away from your presentation? For example, you might want to update your team with details of a new product launch. And what is your personal indicator of success for the presentation? This could be as simple as starting your presentation confidently. Having the answers to these questions clearly positioned in your mind will give you purpose and, in turn, raise your confidence levels.

3. Prepare

Give yourself the best chance of success by researching your subject matter and creating a clear structure for your presentation. Make sure you have a beginning, middle and end. Or to put it another way, employ the 10 o’ clock news strategy, that is: tell your audience what you want to tell them, tell them and then tell them what you’ve told them. 

4. Keep it simple

Avoid using fancy props or flashy animation techniques that can all cause problems or fail on the day. Print off your presentation notes and keep them somewhere handy. You should rehearse sufficiently enough so that if your computer fails you can still deliver your presentation with just your hard copy notes.

5. Affirmations

Affirmations are positive words or phrases that you repeat often to cancel out negative thoughts. This could be a phrase of your own creation or something you have read somewhere that you find uplifting and encouraging. Identify an affirmation that you deeply believe in and repeat it daily. By doing so you will begin to reprogram your mind and remove any thoughts of anxiousness.

6. Practice

Practice, practice, practice. Don’t just say the words in your head. Say them out loud. Get comfortable with how the words sound and how they feel coming out of your mouth. You could begin by saying the words in front of a mirror and then progress to practicing in front of an audience you feel comfortable with, for example friends and family.

7. Breathing

Taking some calm and deep breaths will increase blood flow, reduce stress levels and release tension before you present. Try this breathing technique: stand with your legs hip distance apart and your shoulders relaxed. Inhale through your nose for 1-5 seconds and then exhale through your mouth for 1-5 seconds. Focus on breathing gently. Repeat for a couple of minutes.

8. Voice

Your mood is portrayed through your voice. Engage with something positive before you present, something that makes you smile or laugh. This could be your favourite joke or remembering a funny story. With your mood lifted your voice will project positivity.

9. Body language counts

Non-verbal cues give signals about a person. Consider using open postures and maintaining eye contact in order to establish authority. This by itself can be enough to boost confidence levels.

10. Smile

Smiling releases endorphins in the body. These are our happy hormones. With a smile on your face you will project confidence and self-assurance that will keep your audience engaged until the very end of your (successful) presentation.