Earlier this week, one of my public speaking clients mentioned to me that she would like to work on her “presence” before the audience as well as her actual presentation. I probed a bit deeper, asking her to describe exactly what it was she wanted to project; how was it that she wanted others to see her? She took a few minutes to ponder my question and then said, “I want to project quiet confidence when I’m delivering my speech or sales pitch.”

I decided to stimulate my client’s thought process a bit as far as precisely what the term “quiet confidence” meant to her. Specifically, I asked my client to tell me who she thought most exemplified quiet confidence. She mulled this over and responded, “Michelle Obama.” When prompted to describe Mrs. Obama’s brand of quiet confidence, my client said it had mainly to do with how the First Lady holds herself; she pointed to Mrs. Obama’s posture of squared shoulders, frequent and appropriate eye contact, and slight, unforced smile as hallmarks of a confident woman.

Now that my client had this mental “image” of quiet confidence, I invited her to join in a little role play with me in order to help her sense her own quiet confidence.

We began with the following foundation: my client was to remain “in character” regardless of what I asked her to do, and she had to completely embrace the notion of being an expert via-à-vis the role she was about to enter.

When I felt my client had repeated the “I am expert” mantra enough to own it, I told her this, “You are the expert on toast and I want you to talk to me about toast.” “Make me believe 100% that you not only are THE consummate expert on toast, but that you deserve this honor.”

Sound a little funny? Well, admittedly, this type of exercise can be humorous. But, it is also invaluable – perhaps even indispensable – in developing top-notch public speaking skills.

You see, oftentimes focusing on what you are saying, how you are saying it and how you appear while saying it can create intense stress. And, because you’re trying so hard to remember your content – the heart of your presentation – you may lose poise and confidence and leave the impression with your audience that you are anything but “expert.” Replacing your real content with something very simple, routine and familiar can actually help you avoid over-thinking, which allows you to spend more time developing your style, your “presence.” This tactic is most helpful in the early stages of putting together your speech. As you feel your confidence take root, you can begin to switch to your actual content. The caveat, remember to repeat the following mantra: “I am the expert, I am the expert, I am the expert.”

Ultimately, your goal should be to possess and project whatever image it is that you wish to impart to your audience, be it quiet confidence or something else. You should see yourself as you want others to see you – as the source, the expert in your field or on your subject matter.

I am proud to say that my client did a great job with our little exercise on developing quiet confidence. Of course, it will take more than this one exercise to become the full image and master the presentation, but she’s on her way. Do you need help developing your own “presence” or public speaking style? Contact me today and schedule a consultation.