Tips on Communicating with Confidence – with Public Speaking Expert, Jo Darby

In an increasingly digital world, companies are realising the importance of building tangible, face-to-face relationships. Whether through networking situations, conducting seminars, keynote speeches or even something as simple as leading a team, communicating your story has never been so crucial. According to a study by Prezi, 70% of employees agree that presentation skills are critical to their success at work. The National Institute of Mental Health, however, reports that 73% of the population suffer from public speaking anxiety. 

So, how do you communicate with confidence?

We chatted to public speaking expert and founder of Voice in the Room, Jo Darby to get her top tips on standing up, speaking out and communicating with impact…

Jo Darby, Founder of Voice In The Room. Image Credit:  Voice In The Room

Jo Darby, Founder of Voice In The Room. Image Credit: Voice In The Room

Get clear on the ‘why’

“It’s important to get really clear about why you’re speaking,” says Jo. “Ask yourself: What is the purpose of the speaking opportunity? What is the goal?” To do this, it’s a good idea to think about the four purposes of storytelling: to entertain; to inspire; to educate; to convince. By homing in on what you want your audience to take away from your speaking, you’re well on your way to communicating with confidence.

Take your audience with you

“Your role as a speaker is to serve your audience, and to make sure you take them with you,” Jo explains. “If an audience can’t follow you, then you’re going to lose them somewhere along the way.” How can this be achieved? By structuring your speech. “Knowing that your message is really clear and knowing that you have structured it in a way that your audience can follow will improve your confidence ten-fold,” Jo adds. 

Harness your nerves

Nerves are inevitable; see them as a positive. “The reason we often feel nervous is because we care,” Jo notes. “We care because we want our audience to understand what we’re going to say; we care because we feel strongly about our message; we care because we really want to inspire our team or, frankly, we care because we don’t want to look like a complete wally!” Often, we make false assumptions about our speaking engagement. We assume that our audience is going to pick holes in our seminar, laugh at us or, worse still, not even bother listening; we assume that we’re going to fall flat on our face. “The reality is usually very different,” Jo assures. “No-one goes to a talk thinking, ‘I really hope the person is dreadful, and that they trip up on their way to the stage or that they forget what they’re going to say’.” Which leads us onto the next tip…

It can be daunting to address a room full of people, but try to harness your nerves. Image Credit:  Unsplash

It can be daunting to address a room full of people, but try to harness your nerves. Image Credit: Unsplash

Prepare, Practice andPause

“A lot of the time, people feel nervous because they aren’t comfortable or confident in what they’re doing, however, if you prepare, practice and pause, your confidence will improve,” Jo says, continuing, “We can all find the time to practice – even if it’s five minutes of presenting out loud to yourself in the car.” 

And, when it comes to managing your nerves, pausing can go a long way. “I always encourage clients to pause more,” Jo says. “Pausing is fantastic, as it puts you in control, allows you to breathe, and also to consider what you want to say next.” Not only this but pausing also allows the audience time to process what you’re saying. “Often, we speak too fast; we’re not allowing our audience time to process the information we’re presenting. If the audience can’t process what you’re saying, there is absolutely no point in speaking!”

Jo is a huge fan of doing “whatever it takes” to ensure that you pause: “I often encourage my clients to get their highlighters out or to use gold stars to highlight to themselves that it’s time to pause.”

Be you

“Many of the people I work with believe that they need to put on their ‘speaking voice,’ but as soon as we do that, we stop being genuine,” Jo explains, continuing, “As soon as we stop being genuine, the chances of our audiences connecting with us decreases.” According to Jo, audiences connect with speakers who put their hands up and acknowledge that they’re human. “Yes, you have important messages to convey, yes you are an expert, but your audience will connect with you as an authentic, human being.”

Be you! Image Credit:  Unsplash

Be you! Image Credit: Unsplash

It doesn’t have to be perfect

We aren’t all Barack Obama, but that doesn’t matter. What matters most is that you give it a go: “So many people don’t have a go at speaking, because they think that it’s got to be perfect. It doesn’t,” assures Jo. By putting your hand up and seeking out speaking opportunities, you will become more comfortable and, ultimately, more confident. “I would love it if more people were not just able to seek out speaking opportunities, but able to go out and create their own speaking opportunities,” concludes Jo. “It doesn’t have to be perfect, you just need to run with it.” 

Jo Darby founded Voice in the Room in 2016 after working as a barrister for Trinity Chambers for 10 years, and also in theatre directing. In her work at the Bar, Jo was often required to condense huge amounts of information into the key message or the crux of her case. As a theatre director, she would support actors with stage fright, enabling them to ‘squash their speaking gremlins.’ Find out more about Jo’s public speaking training by visiting her website.