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Free Article: To be a Confident Speaker in Risk and Compliance

Friday 17 April 2020

By Sarah Ewen, Public Speaking For Life Partner and Co-Founder

“Don’t be nervous,” and “Just be confident,” is advice often offered by a well-meaning colleague right before you deliver a key work presentation, present to a committee, or facilitate a meeting with a regulator.
But it is totally normal to be nervous and it can be hard to be confident.  
Over the years as a public speaker, trainer and coach, I have worked with many clients who say they want to work on managing their nerves. Through the coaching and training process, it often becomes clear that excessive nerves are just the symptom. What lies at the heart of those nerves is almost always a challenge with confidence.
In the world of risk and compliance, backing yourself and your opinion is an important part of the role you play in your organisation. Therefore, it is important to give regular attention to building your confidence so you can draw upon it when speaking up at work and in life.
When it comes to confidence, ‘build’ is the key word. ‘Build’ indicates that gaining confidence is a gradual, step-by-step, experience-by-experience process. The great news is it does not necessarily need to be a slow process!
Here are three key ways you can build your confidence, so you are equipped to “Just be confident,” whenever you must speak up and present.
Avoid comparing yourself to others to be the best you can be

Comparison can be very destructive in the confidence-building process. There is a difference between learning from someone else and comparing yourself, and it can be a subtle but slippery slope. Learning from someone can help you grow, but when it snowballs into comparisons with others, it becomes detrimental to building your confidence and increases the chance of you losing your confidence.
One of the main issues with comparing ourselves to someone is that we often compare ourselves to people whom we regard as ‘better’ than us. I see this regularly. A client has spent hours listening to a famous public speaker and they make it their goal to sound and look like them for a work presentation. There are always going to be people around us whom we admire and consider better than we are. But that is no reason to give up or to feel inadequate! No one else can speak the way you do. Learn what you can from others, then move on before it deteriorates into unhelpful comparison. I recommend not wasting your time and energy constantly measuring and benchmarking yourself against others. Afterall, your confidence is at stake. No-one sounds, has the same sense of humour, or the same thoughts to share as you. Draw and build confidence from what makes you uniquely you as a speaker, and don’t erode your own confidence by getting trapped in the comparison game.
Address any horrible past public speaking experiences

You may have experienced an extended awkward pause and wished the ground would swallow you up. Or perhaps you have literally fainted under the pressure of presenting! Regardless of the severity of the horrible experience—or experiences—the flashbacks can cause you to relive the emotional trauma. Flashbacks can also cause you to freeze up in a routine meeting, or make you want to throw up even at the thought of having to speak up or present.
A horrible past public speaking experience does not just make speaking in front of others difficult; it can really rob you of your confidence! With confidence at stake, the benefits of addressing these experiences far outweighs the pain in the process. 
I recommend allowing yourself to relive the experience one last time. However, this time, do it with a clear purpose—and that is, to identify any lessons you can learn. Once you have identified the lessons, write them down. With that task completed, it is time to make the choice to let it go. Any time it pops into your mind, especially before a presentation or meeting, refocus your mind on the lessons learnt and the positive things you are now doing to ensure history does not repeat itself. Then step out and start learning the skills of public speaking in advance of your next speaking opportunity.

You have confidence when you know you can do something. This is true of any skill. Before they present, many people either don’t practice at all or practice alone. Those who think they can just ‘wing it’ often find it does not go so well! It is important to practice in front of an audience in a friendly environment where there are no consequences if mistakes are made.  If you want to build your confidence as a speaker, be intentional about investing time in developing your speaking skills. It is a skill you want to know you have well ahead of a presentation—as opposed to either having to learn at high speed and under pressure or going to extreme measures to avoid the presentation altogether because of your lack of confidence in your speaking abilities. Practice results in progress. Why? Because your confidence ‘gets built’ when you know you are making progress. Practicing will help you to become a confident speaker.
This is the key reason why I do what I do, which is to run public speaking courses. In 2020, I am partnering with GRCI to provide a range of short courses including:
  • Present with confidence
  • Drive compliance through storytelling
  • Difficult conversations and providing constructive feedback
Remember, confidence is something we all need to build on a continual basis, regardless of age or stage. It is well worth the investment. Public speaking and communication training is a great and practical way to keep building your confidence. When you are armed with confidence, the next time someone tells you to “Just be confident”, you will be able to agree and honestly say, “I am.”