Sep 8, 2020
How to Build Confidence and Visibility Through Speaking
“Nobody can teach you confidence, but they can give you the tools to find it within yourself.”
Megan Hamilton is a classically trained actor. She attended theater school and university. Yet after a while, Megan decided to leave the theater industry and commit all of her time to the study of music. During this time, Megan recorded 5 CDs and toured all over Canada and the US. During her life, she's had many opportunities to be up in front of people in different capacities.
For the last seven years, Megan has been teaching the four tenants of public speaking to people all over the country. In 2020 she quit teaching at the college level and started her own business coaching people in successful public speaking.
“Just remember people want to hear from you.” - Megan Hamilton
The four tenants of public speaking include standing, breathing, speaking, and reading. A lot of times, people struggle with how to carry themselves and stand confidently. Women, especially, tend to lean into themselves and take up as little space as possible. Many women have experienced uncomfortable situations where they feel uncomfortable speaking up and taking up space. Still, standing in public speaking refers to how you own your space and feel powerful within their own body.
The Alexander Technique introduces the proper way to stand. It’s over 100 years old and was developed by an Australian actor. After a lot of study and research, he discovered the best way to stand for your body includes the following things:
At first, it may seem a little uncomfortable, but over time you will find this stance helps you be upright and have the least amount of harm on your body. This also helps build authority, both as you see yourself and how others perceive you.
“When you [stand] up like that, you will actually feel a power emanating from you because you are up and open.” - Megan Hamilton
This can also be adapted to sitting and Zoom meetings. The best way to create the proper sitting stance include:
If you stay in Alexander while sitting, it also keeps your energy and engagement up.
There are two types of breathing, deep breathing and controlled breathing, which helps control your voice. Controlled breathing helps you keep grounded and relieve some of the nervousness often associated with speaking. This breathing method includes managing your breathing instead of allowing your lower brain or subconscious brain to manage it for you.
When you practice controlled breathing, it sends a signal to your brain that says you are not in flight or fight mode, as well as stops the supply of cortisol and adrenaline racing through your bloodstream. Megan recommends practicing controlled breathing by inhaling for five seconds, holding it for five, and then breathing out for ten. Breathing out slowly is what creates a sense of calmness and focus. Practice this every day so that you can go right into controlled breathing when you are in a high-stress moment.
Deep and supportive breathing for your voice includes breathing into your diaphragm and imagining that your lungs have six sides. With each breath, breathe a little deeper.
We support our voice using optimum pitch, which is the most supportive way to speak. This means you support your voice in all situations, even the ones you don’t notice or realize.
“Your optimum pitch will feel very vibrational. Keep at it, because once you feel it, you’ll get it.” - Megan Hamilton
The best way to find optimum pitch is by taking a really deep breath in through your nose as you fill up your lungs. Then, have it go down deep into your belly, and with the momentum of your open lungs, try to make a sound. See what comes out of you.
This can be difficult at first. It’s essential to allow the sound to let go. Since optimum pitch is very vibrational, you should feel the vibrations within your chest, top of your head, or the back of your neck or lower ribs.
“Once you find your optimum pitch, you’ll be creating a sense of musicality to your sentences.” - Megan Hamilton
We read using a technique called text mapping. This is especially helpful for online videos or Zoom calls. First, write everything out ahead of time. This is especially crucial if you’re writing out instructional videos. It’s essential to be clear about why you are there and what you want to say. By writing things down, you can map out how to vocally say what you’ve written. Then, by text marking, you mark up how to best naturally say it. Megan recommends starting with a breath bar, which looks like a forward slash and placed everywhere there is punctuation.
At first, this can seem like a lot of breaths, but it breaks up your speech into more digestible fragments for your audience. It also keeps your pace slow, so you don’t speed through your address. By text mapping, you are deciding ahead of time where to take breaths, which keeps you calm and relaxed. This is a built-in controlled breathing system.
Practice your speech over and over in front of a camera. When you read it, you will have that sense of musicality in your sentences, and you’ll also be able to read three to five words ahead, which keeps your comments flowing as you look up to see your audience.
“Eye contact makes us feel seen in this strange digital realm.” - Megan Hamilton
While there isn’t anything fancy about all of this practical stuff, it allows you to be yourself, visible, and confident. Once you know the system, you can use it all the time, and you’ll notice an improvement in how you speak to others and will have the tools needed to be confident.
To learn more about Megan and her courses, you can go to http://www.ubuskills.com, where you will receiver her free public speaking guide when you sign up.
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