Let's Talk Confidence
There is a problem with our youth in Malaysia today.
Tunku Zain Al-'Abidin Tuanku Muhriz, founding president of Institute For Democracy And Economic Affairs (IDEAS) said based on his observation during speaking engagements at educational institutions including government secondary schools, as well as public and private universities, that Malaysian students were still not confident enough to speak up, particularly in English.
"In general, when I try to engage them (students) in matters of great importance...it's not just the content of their knowledge that is of concern, but also the way they express themselves about these institutions and concepts,” he said.
The actual cause for this may vary. The way our culture works and varied opinions of what makes good parenting may attribute to the problem. But today we’ll address one of the major causes and definitely a cause for concern for all parents (current and future). It is the lack of an important element that drives a child to success.
That’s right. We’re talking about confidence.
What’s the big deal?
It’s a huge, gigantic, massive, and gargantuan deal. In fact, it’d take a considerable amount of synonyms for the word ‘big’ to describe how important confidence really is.
At a young age, children experience many new things. Be it a new school or a new hobby, there is definitely a lot of uncharted territory to cover. As good parents, we definitely want our kids to have the required attitude and mindset to face these new experiences – head on. In other words, we want our kids to be confident in themselves, their own abilities and the ideas that they have to share.
Confident children are better equipped to deal with peer pressure and responsibility than kids who feel bad about themselves. They are also better communicators, able to deal with strong emotions both good and bad, and convey their own ideas without fear of rejection. Confidence also inspires children to cope with challenges and frustrations when they arise, instead of running away from them.
For us, confidence also means giving a child the ability to deliver speeches that captivate. Confidence is such a big part of a speaker’s charisma simply because it’s so obvious to audiences. Speakers who have great points and ideas but fail to deliver them with confidence instantly lose that connection with audiences. Their speech may come across as insincere, or worse – inaccurate.
How do I get the confidence to speak well?
Alright, so we’ve established how important confidence really is, especially for a speaker. Now here’s a few tricks to become a stronger and more comfortable public speaker:
1. Fear is your friend
We see fear as the enemy. I mean, it’s only natural. But let’s turn this on its head for a moment, and instead take fear in as a friend.
Fear prevents confidence, but don’t let that stop you. Instead, next time when you shudder just thinking of presenting on stage, why not use that anxiety to drive you to greater heights? Begin your preparation earlier than other more confident speakers might. Create draft after draft . . . each time building greater confidence in what you are going to say.
Also, try preparing for multiple scenarios that may occur, such as technical issues or mental block. A prepared speaker naturally indicates confidence, and confidence contributes to success. Think you're done preparing? Try practicing one more time. You'll thank yourself for it.
2. Make the first impression a lasting one
It’s much easier to sail a ship that’s on course. Veer away, and it’ll take considerable effort to straighten the ship. Likewise, think carefully about how you want to begin your speech.
The goal is to help the audience identify with you -- ideally, on a human level. Others have also succeeded by "wowing" the audience early. The key is setting the right trajectory right from the get-go, so that you and your audience can find it easier to follow where your speech is going.
Speaking of first impressions, nothing gets a speech going like some well-timed wit and humor. A humorous opening immediately lightens the mood in the room and helps everyone relax. Laughing at yourself may seem incredibly self-deprecating, but if you can get others to join you in that laughter, then it creates a level of trust. The laughter breaks the wall that audiences automatically set up that forces them to see themselves as vastly different from you.
3. Look up to those who believe in you
Literally. This is literally what we mean.
Standing up on a vast stage, it’s pretty easy to feel alone and isolated from the rest of the crowd. And it only gets worse if the crowd doesn’t even seem remotely interested in you or anything you have to say. In a situation like this, you’ll want to look out for a few people who are nodding along to your points. Nodding heads express agreement and scream “Yes! What you’re saying fits exactly what I’m thinking”. It’s a gesture that we never really pay attention to but is really essential to boosting confidence.
Look out for individuals like these, and maybe even mentally note them down as “partners”. So, the next time your eyes scan the crowd, linger on these few individuals, take a small sip of confidence, and let your confidence show itself in your speech!
Practice these 3 tips next time you go on stage, and watch your shyness fade into the curtains! We’ll talk about a few more in next week’s article, so stay tuned.