Confidence can carry you through a lot in life. It can help you perform better in job interviews, appear more authoritative when addressing a crowd, and land more deals and partnerships in your business. Unfortunately, most of us don't feel confident 100 percent of the time, and when we do feel confident it doesn't always project outward in ways that enable us to succeed.
During the course of conversation, there are several tricks you can use to make your words sound more authoritative, and to address your audience with greater overall confidence. Here are seven of them.
1. Speak more slowly.
Some of us speak faster when we're nervous. Some of us are naturally fast talkers. Regardless of your motivations, conscious or subconscious, speaking too quickly indicates a lack of authority or a lack of confidence. In addition, while speaking quickly, you're more likely to make mistakes in your enunciation, and you have less time to think through your words. Focus on speaking more slowly in your conversation, allowing your words to draw out and giving your sentences a weightier rhythm. Your audience will have more time to digest the words you're speaking, and you'll be less likely to make any critical errors that compromise your speaking integrity.
2. Use pauses to your advantage.
Using pauses is another strategy that can help you speak slower, but it's effective in its own right. Work on creatively using pauses to give more impact to your speaking. For example, if you have an opening for a public presentation that's eight sentences long and you make a significant point after sentence three, throw in a sizable seconds-long pause. It will add more weight to whatever your last sentence was and give you audience time to soak it in. It also gives you a chance to collect your thoughts and prepare for the next section of your speech, adding to the total amount of authority and confidence you project.
3. Avoid asides.
In a scenario that allows for preparation, such as giving a speech to a public audience, asides are fine. You have advance time to prepare them, determine if they're relevant, and include them if they are. In more natural conversations, however, improvised asides can be damaging. For example, if you're in a job interview and you answer a question directly, then spiral into a related story about something that happened to you a few years ago, it could be a sign that you're nervous and looking to fill conversational space. Instead, focus only on what's immediately relevant.
4. Lower your vocal range.
Take a look at some of the most famous speeches throughout history, at currently popular politicians, and even at local newscasters. You'll find that most of them have lower tones of voice, and this is no coincidence. People tend to view speakers with lower speaking voices as having more authority and confidence. As much as you can, practice speaking in a lower tone of voice. Don't force yourself or you'll sound unnatural, but if you can get yourself a tone or two lower, it can make a real difference.
5. Improve your posture.
Body language is just as important in conversation as the words that leave your mouth. Whether you're sitting or standing in front of your audience, work to improve your posture. Stand or sit up straight with your shoulders back, and keep your head held high. This will make you appear bigger and more confident, and will help you feel more confident as well. Plus, you'll get the added benefit of aligning your body so you can breathe--and therefore speak--more efficiently. Posture can demand a lot of work, so make sure to practice in advance.
Gesticulation--the practice of using your hands and arms to punctuate or enhance your verbal statements--is another valuable body language strategy. Speakers who use body language actively in their presentation tend to be viewed as more confident and more authoritative than those who do not. Obviously, different hand gestures can signal different things, and if you simply wave your hands wildly in front of your audience, it may make you come across as out of control. Instead, focus on reserving your hand gestures for your most impactful words, and try to keep your movements reserved and under strict control.
7. Talk more.
The conversations that matter in our lives--whether they're in the form of a public presentation or a business negotiation--are somewhat rare. But that doesn't mean we can't prepare for those meaningful conversations in our everyday lives. Seek out new opportunities to communicate with others whenever you get the chance, and in any context. Put these speaking strategies to practice and focus on improving your abilities over time. The only way to get better is to plunge in and keep working at it, so sign up to be a public speaker when you can and strike up conversations with strangers wherever you go.
The beauty of these conversational tricks is their sheer practicality; they can be used anywhere, in almost any context where you're speaking to one or more other people. Experiment with them by practicing on a friend or a colleague. Over time, they will become second nature to you, and your natural speaking voice will convey a greater overall level of confidence and authority.