10 Strategies Excellent Speakers Use To Present Themselves With Confidence

Do you sometimes feel you are not presenting yourself in the best possible way? Do you feel nervous before a meeting or presentation? Does the idea of public speaking fill you with dread? Do you get a dry mouth and clammy palms in meetings when you are faced with a group of people looking at you expectantly? If this sounds like you the chances are that you are suffering from a touch of performance anxiety. In this article you will find ten practical strategies for dealing with performance anxiety that you can apply immediately.

Performance anxiety is a fairly broad term. It ranges from an actor’s stage fright or the Olympic athlete’s adrenaline-fuelled nervousness before a race, to the discomfort felt by an introverted person at a drinks party. For the actor and the athlete it may be brought on by an expectation to produce excellence under the pressure of public scrutiny. For most of us, however, it is usually brought on by lack of confidence and self-limiting beliefs, which can have seriously debilitating effects on a person if not managed well.

Few of us will compete at the Olympic Games or grace the stage with our interpretations of Shakespeare’s plays, but most of us will at some point in our life be expected to make a speech, perhaps at a wedding, or make a sales presentation. And when that day comes you want to be able to step forwards confidently and without being wobbly on your pins.

Public speaking is listed as most people’s number-one fear before a solitary death, which comes in at number five, and loneliness at number seven, which I guess means that most of us are less afraid of dying alone than of making fools of ourselves in front of others? You may have heard the joke that some people would prefer to be in their coffin rather than read the eulogy at a funeral. While this is probably an exaggeration most of us do feel a degree of nervousness when preparing to speak in front of a group. Those who are filled with severe feelings of dread and panic in such situations are at a distinct disadvantage with a resultant loss of self-esteem that can adversely affect performance in every other part of their life.

I am a dyed in the wool, 100% confirmed introvert, but despite this I spent 25 years of my life as a successful ballet dancer, performing on stages in front of thousands of people throughout Europe and the rest of the World. I had to learn to manage my performance nerves on a daily basis. Now, as a Performance Coach this is an issue I come across with my clients frequently. These are some of the tactics I have used myself before going on stage so I know they work.


Focus on the job in hand, not on yourself and your fear of making mistakes. Remind yourself that you are contributing something of value to your audience. They have come to see or hear you because they are interested in what you have to say; they want you to succeed and they admire you for your courage to stand up there in the first place – just as you admire those that have the courage to step up to the mark. Try to connect with them, thinking of them as friends and supporters. The old trick of making yourself feel better by imagining your audience in their underwear does not work. Such mental images will be distracting rather than helpful.


Thoughts of what might go wrong are not helpful. Anxiety is a problem with negative thinking so one way to combat it is to make yourself think positive thoughts, so try to relax and visualize your success. Always focus on thoughts and images that are reassuring; and on your strength and ability to handle challenges. Performance anxiety is self-sustaining because it creates a mind set that focuses only on mistakes and expectation of “judgment” by others. The fact is that your audience is probably much less judgmental about your performance than you are.


Practice ways to stay calm, such as deep-breathing and relaxation exercises, or meditation. Hundreds of books on Mindfulness have been written containing countless pieces of good advice, most of it valuable. In this context the only thing you need to understand about Mindfulness is its essence – namely, that by becoming fully aware of the present, by calmly focusing your mind and breathing deeply, you can eliminate worry about the past and fear of the future. It may take practice, but it works. Why? Because it is worrying about the past and fearing the future, neither of which you can do anything about, that lie at the heart of every kind of anxiety.


Professional performers will always have a personal ritual that puts them in the right frame of mind to face an audience. Emulate the professionals and create you own deliberate ritual. The very act of performing a ritual will contribute to the healing process. Your ritual has to be personal but I would suggest it contains at least one but preferably all three of the following elements.

1. A calming breathing exercise, which can be combined with a brief moment of mindful meditation.

2. Visualizing a successful outcome of what lies ahead.

3. An “anchor”. This is a Neuro-Linguistic Programming technique of deliberately making a gesture or action that you associate with feeling confident. The act of consciously doing this will influence your sub-consciousness to replicate that same positive state of mind. By frequently practicing such an “anchor” it can become a remarkably effective tool for shifting your mind into a more positive state.


There is a good reason why musicians, actors, singers and dancers spend 99% of their working lives rehearsing and practicing their skills, so learn from the professionals – practice your material in advance. If possible do it in front of someone who can give you constructive feedback. The pressure of practicing in front of another person will also prepare you for the added pressure of doing the real thing in front of a proper audience. If you are making a presentation or giving a speech it is imperative that you read it aloud to hear your own voice, because words that look good on the page may not necessarily sound as good when spoken.


Don’t try to improvise; it never works. That said it is necessary to be open minded and flexible. If you have too rigid an idea of how your presentation or speech should turn out you will give yourself no margin for error, which means that if something does go slightly wrong you will find it difficult to recover. This in turn will increase any anxiety you felt already. In the event that the unexpected does happen, simply slow down for a second—take a deep breath—then pick up where you left off. This brief moment will give you a chance to regain your composure and gather your thoughts. You will probably find that no one even noticed that something went wrong. Such a pause might even add a touch of gravitas to your presentation.


Pay attention to your body language. Your physical attitudes speak volumes about who you are and what you are feeling. An audience is very perceptive to how a person in front of them feels. Therefore to make yourself feel and look more confident stand up straight, lift your eyes off the floor and move in a self-assured, confident manner. This will have an immediate positive effect both on you and on your audience because when you move with confidence you will feel confident, and when you feel confident you will project confidence to your audience; it’s a win-win situation. So by simply deciding to move and stand with confidence you are in fact creating a self-perpetuating, upward-moving cycle of positive feelings.


Take care of your health. I know I’m stating the obvious when I say exercise, eat well, and practice a generally healthy lifestyle. Avoid eating a heavy meal before you have to appear in front of an audience. Your digestion needs time to process foods heavy on protein and carbohydrates, which will make you feel tired and sluggish, so stick to lighter foods and go easy on alcohol and caffeine. This may sound fairly obvious but it is always good to be reminded about the importance of maintaining a sensible approach to your physical well-being when you are facing a challenging task.


Aim for excellence but give up trying to be perfect. It’s OK to make mistakes. In fact, an audience will be more sympathetic towards someone who makes an occasional mistake because it makes them feel they are in the presence of someone who is as human as they are. Research has shown that an audience perceives a person who makes some minor mistakes during a presentation as more likable then someone who seems too perfect. If you do make a cock-up acknowledge it and move on, but you will find that a slip-up is far more noticeable to you than to an audience.


Whatever you do don’t try to emulate someone else’s performance. At best you will be seen as a second-rate version of that person. You will be much more successful as a first-rate version of you. Remember that you are unique. It does not matter whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. No one has your particular combination of knowledge and qualities to bring to the table. If you know what you need to say only you can say it the way it should be said.


Anxiety itself can create more anxiety. It has been established that different kinds of anxiety are likely to fuel each other, so performance anxiety can bleed into other parts of your life too. Therefore to reduce performance anxiety you need to address your overall anxiety levels.

There are probably good evolutionary reasons for the Limbic brain system (which controls emotional responses among other functions) to kick in and trigger the fight-flight-or-freeze reflex when you’re about to speak in public. Because appearing in front of an audience brings with it the subconscious fear of being seen as different from the “tribe” and therefore facing the possibility of exclusion and reduced chances of survival in the wild. Knowing this is interesting but not of much help when you are standing in front of an audience with your heart pounding in your chest and with a sweaty brow.

Avoiding scary challenges may provide short-term relief, but never to address the problem at its core will reinforce your anxiety in the long run. If your performance anxiety is connected to public speaking improving your presentation skills is good up to a point, but it’s generally not enough to eliminate the problem completely. You must tackle all your negative cognitions and self-limiting beliefs. Getting to know yourself and accepting the person you are is at the root of healing, and one way of doing this is through working with a personal coach.

The good news is that if you have the courage to extend your comfort zone, little-by-little, day-by-day, there is no limit to how far you can go in improving your competence, which will strengthen your confidence in all areas of life.

Midde age - personal development

Middle-Age is the time for Men to have a Life Coach

If at the time of reading this article you are somewhere between 45 and 60 years old you belong to the “sandwich generation”; the age group wedged between retired baby boomers and the younger generation of digital natives. Many men in this position feel more than a little marginalised, caught between the traditional male role of being the sole breadwinner in the family and the ‘new man’ who identifies himself as his partner’s co-washer-upper and baby-minder. If that rings a bell you may be experiencing manopause, an often-overlooked phase of a man’s life caused by testosterone deficiency, affecting between six and 12 per cent of men over the age of 40. Symptoms can range from erectile dysfunction and low sex drive to depression, weight gain and fatigue. But the chemical changes in your body do not make you any less of a man—it just makes you a different kind of man—and you have in fact more going for you than you might realise.

Not being a medical man I cannot comment on the physical changes a man may experience in his middle years, but as a life coach specializing in working with middle-aged men I can recognize this as a time of change on many other levels; a time that can—with some focus and a little bit of help—be turned into an opportunity for personal reinvention and rejuvenation of spirit. Because this is the time in a man’s life when maturity and experience make him truly capable of taking up the challenge of personal development, and therefore a time when he is most likely to benefit from life coaching—and if you understand how coaching works you’ll understand why this is so.

Coaching is based on the principle that a person is ultimately responsible for how their actions today impact their life tomorrow, which presupposes that a person is in charge of their own life, able to find their own answers, develop their own skills, and change their own attitudes and behaviour. Coaching is a collaboration between coach and client explicitly for the purpose of following the client’s agenda and meeting his needs. The role of the coach is not to judge a client’s ideas, opinions and values, but to encourage his creativity and support him in achieving his goals.

With these fundamental principles of coaching in mind it becomes clear that if you are a middle-aged man of integrity and intelligence you have, when you reach this stage of life, developed the personal qualities that will enable you to fully engage with, and benefit from, the coaching process. You will have gained self-awareness and earned the right to self-determination; you have acquired maturity and a fair degree of worldly wisdom, and in the course of your life you have probably already experienced change; professionally, socially and personally. This is an ideal starting point for experiencing effective and successful coaching for two reasons: First you are at a stage when you may feel a genuine need for something new to happen in your life, and second, a lifetime of experience has established the potential for you to work effectively with a coach.

Research shows that a large portion of middle-aged men feel unfulfilled by their work and personal life. After dedicating decades to building a career it’s not uncommon for them to look around and think: “Is this it?” They’ve devoted their lives to family, wives, kids; developing their career and business and have often put themselves last. And because of how men have traditionally been raised they feel they should deal with any lack of satisfaction in their life on their own and with no support whatsoever.

Enter life coaching: It is totally objective in approach and unencumbered by any emotional attachment, just right for a man who wants to take charge of his own destiny. And for someone who is used to being self-reliant it provides the ideal helping hand towards personal development without making him feel any sense of failure. Coaching will enable him to gain greater insight into his own circumstances and recognize opportunities for potential change; it will help him examine his own choices, set realistic and achievable goals, and create step-by-step action plans not just to realize these but to go beyond what was thought impossible.

Coaching is a great way for increasing a person’s sense of fulfillment and his performance at any stage of life but perhaps never more so than when facing the challenge of moving from one chapter of life into the next. Given the choice I am fairly certain that most middle-aged men would give up a large part of their annual income in exchange for waking up each morning feeling stimulated and excited about the day ahead. When he looks back on his past achievements, and forwards to what life may hold in store, coaching may provide the perfect solution for a man who wants to make the remainder of his life satisfying and meaningful.

Elevate your thinking

How to Keep a Sharp Mind in Middle Age

If you think you have stopped learning just because you have become middle-aged you are wrong. Learning is part of the evolutionary process and it goes on throughout life whether you know it or not. Although there is no reliable research demonstrating that brain cells continue to regenerate until we die there is ample evidence to show that by keeping your mind keen you may be able to delay the onset of conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. By maintaining a reading habit it is possible with relatively little effort to exercise your cerebral capacities effectively and continue to learn new, often sophisticated skills.

Learning such skills and acquiring knowledge is tremendously satisfying. And I would argue that the older you get the more fulfilling it becomes; perhaps because discovering later in life that learning new things is possible makes personal development all the more rewarding. Take me for instance – age 60 – writing an article about learning; because as a life coach specializing in working with men it is important that I develop skill as a writer in order to share my thoughts on the challenges of being a man in his middle-years. As I sit here, tapping away on my keyboard and making revisions to the text and then making revisions to the revisions, I’m having a great time.

The worst thing you can do to your mental health, and therefore probably also to your life expectancy as well, is to stop being curious about the world and come to think that you can no longer learn. I would suggest the most significant difference between you and a three year old who is learning new life skills on a daily basis is your belief in your ability to learn. Maybe this is because your willingness to try to learn has diminished.

Even if your preferred area of improvement is something practical and physical, one of the most tried-and-tested routs to developing any new skill is, along with practice, reading. Some of the busiest people in the world dedicate a surprising amount of time in their day-to-day reading. A quick search of the Internet throws up information about the very impressive reading habits of people like Barack Obama, Bill Gates and Richard Branson. The objective is not necessarily to join the ranks of the super-successful but if they can manage to find the time there’s no reason why you can’t.

Maintaining a reading habit that goes beyond the latest Jack Reacher novel does require both focus and discipline. For a start you have to be honest with yourself. How often do you choose watching television over reading a book? Saying that you’re too tired, too busy or not having enough time in the day to read is simply no excuse at all! Of course you have time to read if you chose to make this a priority. We all have the same number of hours available during the day. The only difference is how we chose to spend our free time.

For men of a certain age reading in bed late at night is probably not the best strategy if you want to absorb anything more demanding than the latest thriller or whodunit. Let’s face it, within minutes of going to bed, we all tend to end up snoring away, with the reading light still on, and the book if not on our face, then an inch or two from it, so you need to find other times in your day that you dedicate to constructive reading. Commuting to work by train, tube or bus, for instance, is an excellent opportunity to read rather than spending your time travelling staring at your mobile phone.

There’s no need to punish yourself by reading really boring or heavy stuff but try to cultivate some intellectual resilience and willpower. Pick subjects that not only interest you but that will extend your mental capacities to some degree. If everything you read stretched you by, say, ten or even five percent, the accumulated development you would achieve over a relatively short period of time would be remarkable.

Be disciplined. Perhaps set a timer to ensure you fit in 30 minutes of reading every day. Most people can read 20 pages in 30 minutes. If you genuinely do dislike reading cut it down to 15 minutes but time will pass quicker than you think and the chances are that you will soon change you opinion about reading. Curiously, most children are avid readers, a habit that many of us lose as we grow older. If that’s you, you may want to start by checking out How To Read A Book (Mortimer Adler, 1940). It is still the definitive work on how to read effectively for both pleasure and study.

Sustaining an ability to pick up new skills, retaining facts and pinpointing information pertinent to you is not only good for keeping your mind keen and feeling youthful and motivated, it is increasingly becoming essential to survival in our society. The rate of growth in the 21st century is exponential and at the speed of progress today the development humanity might experience over the next century could, according to some sources, be equivalent to as much as the previous 20,000 years of social development. The upshot is that he who cannot keep up will lose out.

It is true that none of us know how many days, weeks, months or years we have left on Earth, but all of us have the choice of what we do with NOW. Would it not be much more satisfying spending the rest of your time developing in some way and feeling proud about your ongoing achievements rather than just waiting for it all to finish? You may not be able to follow everything that happens in the world, but trying to keep up with that which is relevant to your life will keep you sharp and make you feel better about yourself. Good luck!