In social settings talking to others and sharing your opinion is easy. You intuitively know how to set your voice to the tone of the conversation. You can tell when it’s okay to interject, and when to let others speak up. But, for some reason, in a professional setting people become so nervous that they have trouble articulating themselves well. It should be no different, right?
The problems is that when you’re at work or asked to speak to a group, there is a sense of hierarchy, a feeling of judgement that can be hard to shake. Some people thrive under the pressure, but it takes practice. If you’re struggling to sound confident in a professional setting, here are some things you can work on to improve:
Practice your tone and inflections. Next time you’re in a comfortable environment, take notice of how you naturally change your tone of voice and inflections. You should be doing the same thing at your job or when speaking in front of a group. If you’re preparing for a speech or presentation, practice what you’re going to say with the proper tone and inflections. You don’t want to simply memorize what to say and do so in monotone the entire time.
Project your voice to the back of the room. Volume is an important part of showing confidence when you’re speaking. If you’re in a meeting, make sure you make eye contact with and try to speak at a volume where the person furthest away can still hear you clearly. Speaking softly is never a sign of confidence. Neither is mumbling or making side comments that only one or two people can hear.
Be aware of your facial expressions and body language. A smile instills confidence and makes others more receptive to what you have to say. If you’re not used to using body language or hand gestures, practice doing so. It will help you project confidence whether you’re taking to a group or just one on one. When you’re speaking, be aware of what facial and body expressions you’re using and change them as you move forward.
Pace your words. Talking too fast or thinking too much about your words can be taken as a sign of nervousness. You should pause every now and then, and speak at a pace where your thoughts are coherent and easy for people to follow. Ask people you know whether you talk fast or slow when you’re nervous and compensate for that when you’re with other professionals.
Remember to breathe. This goes along with pacing. If you have a long speech or presentation to give, you need to give yourself breaks. If you get off on a roll, you may forget to pause every now and then and run out of breath quickly. Just like singers must plan to take breaths between verses, you need to take breaths between sentences.
Use these tips to sound more confident. Confidence will help you get and keep a job, and increase your earning power.