Mastering Public Speaking: Developing confidence as a speaker

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Spence M. Finlayson is an international conference speaker and the founder and CEO of Master Motivator Spence Finlayson Speakers Academy. He is a much sought after motivational speaker and has spoken in over 26 foreign countries with 30 years experience. He can be reached at 242-677-0418 or by email at phoenixinstitute@gmail.com

By Spence Finlayson

Someone once said, “Self-confidence is a super power. Once you start to believe in yourself, magic starts to happen.” I agree wholeheartedly. I can recall my very first paid speaking engagement some 31 years ago for Junior Achievement Bahamas. The Hon. Byran Woodside was the executive director at that time and he hired me to speak to 500 Junior Achievers in the Bahamas on “Selling Skills”. I was a bundle of nerves and my confidence level was extremely low. However, after a few minutes into my presentation, my confidence began to grow. You see as a public speaker, you must have an appreciable level of confidence.

Over the years, I have found that one of the things that assisted with the development of my self-confidence as a motivational speaker is my knowledge of my subject matter. Once I feel conversant with my topic, my self-confidence grows exponentially. An unknown author said, “If you want to build your confidence then you have to do something you could not do yesterday. Then repeat this process every day.” I believe that you should research your topic and work on it diligently until you are fully conversant with it and can deliver it with your eyes closed.

Like anything else, the more you do something, the easier it becomes. Rasheed Ogundaru said, “You won’t ever build your confidence from a perception of lack. For it grows and evolves from realizing who you are and what you already have.” Once my audience gives me an initial round of applause, from then on I am set. I build on that little success continuously.

I remember giving the keynote speech at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Trinidad & Tobago (ICATT) conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Port of Spain, and I was a bag of nerves while waiting to be introduced. After my legendary ice breaker went over very well, I settled down and my confidence level began to grow. I was rolling now.

Whenever I speak now, I build on my vast experience of 30 years as a speaker at many conferences, seminars, workshops, etc. in 26 foreign countries. Success breeds success. One writer said, “The quickest way to acquire self-confidence is to do exactly what you are afraid to do.”

Dressing sharp like a Gillette razor blade also helps in the development of my confidence as a speaker. I am very particular about my suits, shirts, ties, cuff-links and shoes. The way you dress speaks volumes about you as a speaker. Confidence is like a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets.

I conduct a six-week public speaking training program at my Speakers Academy in Nassau, Bahamas, and one of the things I do with my students is to get them to give an impromptu speech on a topic I choose for them, which is recorded. We are then able to have them see themselves on camera making a speech. From the very beginning, their confidence is enhanced and they continue to improve over the next four weeks.

Someone once said, “Self-confidence is the most attractive quality a person can have. How can anyone see how great you are if you can’t see it yourself?” Yes friends, you must see it first. The dictionary defines self-confidence as freedom of doubt; belief in yourself and your abilities. Unfortunately self-confidence cannot be taught.

As I have said before, many people will rather face a firing squad than give a speech. One thing you must accept and realize is that you will be nervous. After 30-plus years as an international motivational speaker and conference leader, I still get nervous before I speak. I like to call it the ‘good kind of nervousness’. Don’t try to eliminate your jitters or butterflies. I turn them into positive energy that propels me to greater heights of efficiency as a speaker.

If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life. I often look back at my time in high school as a triple jump champion. I knew if I practiced frequently, on the day of the track meet, I was very confident because I knew that I put in the necessary work to achieve my goal of winning and possibly setting a record. The same thing applies to my public speaking career. In this life, everyone lacks confidence in some area whether its singing in the choir, reciting a poem in the front of a class or reading scripture in church. Helen Keller said, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.” Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.

Finally, the Bible reminds us that our confidence comes from God. Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and 2nd Timothy 1:7 says “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

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