How to Build Confidence in Public Speaking

May 13, 2008

The most engaging public speakers G Reynolds.jpg are not worried about succeeding or failing at the podium. Instead, they are focused on delivering their message.

Garr Reynolds, author of Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery, makes this point in his new book by analogizing a speaker to a swordsman in battle.

“Once we think of failure or success, we are like the swordsman, whose mind stops, ever so briefly, to ponder his technique or the outcome of the fight. The moment he does, he has lost,” Reynolds writes.

A presenter, Reynolds says, should focus on contributing something to the audience, rather than focusing on success or failure. Don’t ask: “Will I be appreciated?” or “Will I win them over?” But rather, “How can I contribute?”

By shifting your mindset in this manner, it relieves the pressure off of you, allowing you to perform by being “fully present.” In other words, you can have a conversation with the audience, rather than delivering a memorized speech, which sends your mind elsewhere.

Reynolds, a former manager at Apple and now a professor of management at Kansai Gaidai University in Japan, derives much of his presentation demeanor from the practice of martial arts.

He notes that a speaker to be “fully present,” s/he needs to achieve “mindfulness,” which means awareness of that particular moment. To do so, you must eliminate your personal filter, which makes you worry about the past or future.

“When you perform in a state of ‘no mind,’ you are free from the burdens of inhibitions and doubt and contribute fully and fluidly in the moment,” Reynolds says.

Reynolds acknowledges this is difficult to achieve, but to do so, you must clear your mind and only focus on one place: right here.