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How to improve my speaking confidence?

I’m a first generation student in this country. As I’ve started college this year, I’ve been noticing just how eloquent everyone sounds when they speak. From other students to interviewers. I’ve been getting really insecure about the way I speak, someone also recently told me that I speak in a “ very simple manner”. I just feel like I have nothing to say in most settings because I don’t think my responses will be as eloquent or fancy. What can I do to help improve my speech so I can feel like I can really contribute to a conversation? Thank you!

#student #college #publicspeaking #speech #presentation #confidence #career #business


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Kim’s Answer

Abdullah,
The way to get better at doing something is to do it! When I became a police officer at the airport, I was terrified of driving on the runways! So at night, when things slowed down, I'd go out and practice. Eventually I became responsible for training new officers on airfield driving!

I agree with John. There's nothing wrong with speaking in simple terms. I'm not much on speaking, but, I do a lot of writing. My writing "packs a punch," but any fifth grader can read and understand it. The impressive part isn't the words - it's the way I structure my argument. That has to do with sentence structure, building good paragraphs, backing up what I say with evidence, and having a strong conclusion. Because of this, I encourage you to take writing classes, or even practice writing on your own. It could be on anything. "Why is this my favorite shirt?" "how to change the sheets on a bed" (write it for someone who has never done it). Make up any topic you want.

Public Speaking Opportunities: As I did with airfield driving, you have to tackle the beast head-on. There is a group called Toastmasters, with chapters all over the country. People join to have opportunities to practice public speaking in a supportive and nonjudgmental environment. I think if you were able to join one, you'd really benefit from it. It would be different than a speech class, which, you should also take.

Self-confidence. Look for opportunities to develop your self-confidence, in any area, not just speaking or writing. You could coach a youth team, for example. Something where people look up to you for your expertise is really helpful!

I hope these ideas help. Please don't let others bring you down!

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John’s Answer

I've been in a similar position. Reading books really helped me increase my random knowledge so I had more to say and it also grew my vocabulary as I would come to learn new words with every book read. And there is nothing wrong with speaking in "a simple manner". If you want to improve, do it for yourself and not appease everyone else.

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Terence’s Answer

Communications are something that can (and should) be continually developed. Whether you're a student, new to the workforce, developing your career, or even seasoned executives. There would be different areas that each of these profiles are working on, but I firmly believe it's something that people can always learn and improve on.

Initially, I'd say it's about practice and building confidence. Practice speeches out loud, write and speak in your own natural voice, practice in front of classmates or friends.

There are a lot of professional groups/clubs aimed at improving public speaking. Toastmasters is probably the most renowned, but there are others.

A few things to keep in mind when you are speaking. First, no one in the room is rooting against you or judging you. People in the room are generally very interested or rooting for you, or they are flat out not paying attention. It's easy to get lost in your own mind thinking about what people are thinking about what you're saying. Just know it's more than likely 2 options "very positive" or "no opinion".

The other thing to keep in mind, you're likely speaking about a subject where YOU, are the expert on the topic. There may be others in the room or conversation that know what you know or more, but there are many more that know way less about your topic. If you can approach these conversations with this in mind, it can definitely shift your perspective during these conversations or presentations.

Both of these add to your confidence and can be added to your arsenal as you develop your communication skills.

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Dan’s Answer

Hi Abdullah,
I would echo Kim's sentiment on getting out there and just doing it. The confidence you build from practice will serve you beyond your wildest dreams. When you are in a professional setting or a classroom setting, the best way to feel confident about what you are communicating is to be confident in the subject, so research and knowledge will build that.

On the subject of " speaking in simple manner" versus "eloquent and fancy," I will refer you to a famous quote from Blaise Pascal "I would have written you a shorter letter, if I had more time."

If you take up the reading suggestion from the other coaches, I would suggest picking up something by Earnest Hemmingway, arguably one of the most influential authors of his time. You can see the power and elegance of simple communication.

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Kathleen’s Answer

You may want to consider joining an on-campus organization, that is in line with something you feel passionate about, as these organization often have opportunities to speak during meetings, fund raising events or other events. As Jerry mentioned, Toastmaster is also in many communities and is a great way to improve your public speaking skills along with others who are trying to do the same thing. As John noted expanding your vocabulary and reading is a great way to become more comfortable with language, but knowing fancy words does not always make one sound smart. The person who is able to explain a complex concept in a clear and concise manner is by far the better communicator.

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Jeremy’s Answer

Hello Abdullah,

Public speaking can be challenging or even just having regular conversations in a professional environment. I struggled with speaking to groups and then I was invited to attend a meeting held by a group called the Toastmasters. The exercises and general feedback from the group greatly helped me improve my speaking abilities and it was pretty fun for me in the process. I have always been more of an introvert but that group helped pull me out of my shell and because of that I have a much better comfort level when speaking.

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Fernando’s Answer

Don't focus on sounding fancy, there's nothing wrong with speaking in simple terms. I recommend trying to engage in conversation in order to get the hang of it. Confidence in speaking is something that comes with practice. Another way to help out with speech is reading; whether it be books, or news articles that grab your attention, all of these help to get you better acquainted with the language.

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Simeon’s Answer

First of all, reading literature can help by seeing how authors experiment with sentence structure, vocabulary, and artistic speaking. Find books that capture your interest so it won't be so much of a chore. Second, joining a theatre group or club can be very helpful for speaking on the fly in a setting where people are learning how to speak well together. In theatre, you experience what it is like to talk with different voices and in different tones. Plus, it is a social setting where your friends can coach you on ways to improve your speech, without the intimidation factor of taking feedback from a teacher or coach. Third, joining any kind of club or organization will give you opportunities to express yourself and do informal presentations. Really, any kind of group where you communicate with peers is going to be an excellent opportunity to develop speaking skills. If you want to get really technical, you could record yourself giving a speech and give it to other people and ask them for their honest feedback.

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Davina’s Answer

The biggest thing that I would say is to not focus on sounding fancy! The best and biggest thing that I would recommend is to continue to engage in conversation with various individuals, don't shy away! Another thing that is huges is to read books, articles, journals or anything that grabs your attention that has words you don't know & have to look up; this gives you the opportunity to expand your overall vocabulary and increase your linguistic skills

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Rebecca’s Answer

Don't hesitate to speak up! I find that people want to hear from everyone. I think you gain more by speaking up even if you think it's simple or are unsure than by not talking at all. You will feel so much better if you understand more by asking questions. I have taught classrooms at the Company I work for when the entire classroom is quiet and I wish that people would speak up more. It will help you as well as the others in the room. One way to feel more confident is to practice. If you are ever giving a presentation, just spend time with the material and practice in front of the mirror. It might feel silly, but the more you practice, the more familiar you get with the material and the more natural you will present.

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Bessie’s Answer

Hi Abdullah,

You have some great advice from the other experts here.

I just wanted to add something that has worked for me. I was very timid about public speaking as well so I began to compile a list of my favorite speakers. These can be videos of TED talks, late night talk show monologues, or speeches to an audience or audio various podcasts. When I was alone or had some time to myself, maybe while driving, I would listen and try to repeat what the speaker was saying. I would not sweat any mistakes, but just try to repeat little snippets and get through the clips.
By emulating some of these notable public speakers, I began to curate my own public voice.


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Jinesh’s Answer

Hi Abdullah,

As a first generation student myself, I too struggled with public speaking. When I started college I made it a personal goal to get better at public speaking and do it without being nervous or afraid of what others may think of me. The best method to get better at public speaking was to join as many organizations as I could and get leadership positions in those organizations. Doing this early in my college career really helped me the rest of the way as I was less nervous for job/internship interviews.

The best way to get better at something is to practice it over and over again. I believe if you take the steps to put yourself out there more, granted it may not be easy initially, you will truly thank yourself and it will be a rewarding experience for you. I would suggest starting off in a smaller group setting and developing the confidence to speak up and work your way to larger organizations.

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EMMANUEL’s Answer

Hi Abdullah - Language and communication can become a hurdle especially if someone looses confidence.

Let me share a bit on my personal experience here with the hope that it will help you. I learned English in my early 20's while studying as an international student and the first 3 years were the most challenging and difficult years I had in my life...all because of the language barrier and the same feelings you're describing. I was so discouraged with my inability to share "eloquently" what was in my head...and that it took me hours to complete a not so great quality homework that I know I could do in my language in less than 1! This is real. So here is what I can share with you now, years later, based on my journey:
1. Eloquent does not mean smart! There is a lot of silly things being said in a very eloquent way :O) - use your words to say smart things in a simple way.
2. Don't shy away; try to not be intimated (sometimes it is easier said than done!) - as you've seen in the other responses, it is by talking, reading, participating that you'll get better and better.
3. Find your own communication style. Even if at the moment you stick with "simple", think about the assets that you have. My accent was and still is such an icebreaker where people show interest in knowing more about me, where I am from and what's my story! I also decided to work in a field where "eloquent" speaking was not the most important skills one should have as I have recognized that English will always be a second language.

In conclusion, at some point in my life (while studying) I felt very much like what you're describing. Just keep at it and don't be shy. Looking back, what I thought was a hurdle turned out to be a short term challenge and ultimately an asset that has shaped me and my career!

Best of luck!

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