How to improve confidence in public speaking


Speaking in public is one of the activities that causes us the most fear as humans. Shaky voice, excessive sweating, shortness of breath are, among others, the symptoms experienced by people who are afraid of speaking in front of an audience. In addition, there is the fear of going blank, of making a fool of yourself or even of not knowing what to answer when asked by the audience.

Regarding its prevalence, studies on the matter give varied figures, between 20 and 85%, among the general population. In a study carried out among university students, 49.3% confessed to being afraid of speaking in public.

This reality contrasts with a labor market that prioritizes people who are able to communicate clearly and effectively. Companies openly look for professionals with the ability to adequately present the results of a project, the advantages of a product or the implementation of a measure to an audience . Therefore, the ability to make quality oral presentations is of high importance for both the academic and professional success of future university graduates.

Given this panorama, in the university context it is urgent to find ways to generate confidence among students and make them improve their oral communication skills.

What aspects influence the speaker’s confidence?

In order to address this issue, we have investigated what aspects influence students’ confidence as speakers to develop strategies that improve their mastery of this competence. And we have detected that, among the factors that influence this ability to express oneself in public, self-efficacy, previous experience, specific training received, gender and age stand out.

Specifically, our study reveals that the main determinant of confidence in public speaking is self-efficacy, that is, the extent to which the person believes they are competent in making oral presentations.

Women and social anxiety

The gender of the speaker also has a bearing on the fear of speaking in public. According to our research, women have lower levels of confidence when speaking in public than men. This result is consistent with previous studies that indicate that women, in general, exhibit higher levels of social anxiety.

One of the most predictable results is the one that relates previous experience in oral presentations with confidence as a speaker. It is confirmed that students who have no prior experience have lower levels of confidence when speaking in public.

Training in public speaking and age

Although one might think that having received public speaking training might increase a speaker’s confidence, there is no indication of this relationship in the data. Nor was it confirmed that age exerts an influence on confidence in speaking in public in the sample analyzed, despite the fact that previous studies had reported a negative relationship between age and confidence, or more specifically between age and fear of situations. socially stressful, such as public speaking.

Recommendations to improve speaker confidence

Given the role that self-efficacy plays as a determining element, teaching methodologies aimed at its improvement must be promoted. This can be proposed through communication skills courses and specific interventions, even lasting a single day or a few hours, supported by virtual reality, which has been shown to be a promising avenue .

In addition, regularly practicing the competition reduces the fear of giving presentations. This intuitive recommendation should be taken into account when designing teaching projects from primary school, encouraging children to give oral presentations to their peers from a young age.

Guidance with rubrics

Another aspect to consider would include the use of rubrics that guide students regarding the criteria for making a good oral presentation. Rubrics are tools that describe different levels of performance in an activity, commonly through behavioral descriptions.

Thus, rubrics are useful for guiding students before beginning an activity, contributing significantly to the self-regulation of students’ learning and the evaluation of their own work. A rubric for evaluating oral presentation competence provides clear and concrete criteria on the requirements necessary to make a quality presentation.

Gender perspective in public speaking training

Finally, our results suggest that any intervention aimed at improving public speaking confidence must take gender into account. This is because women have a lower level of confidence as speakers, both in this study and in other research .

In this sense, and focusing on the relationship between oral communication skills and professional success, it is proposed that models of success be presented in prior training. That is, showing women who occupy highly qualified positions making brilliant presentations. In this way, students can establish links between professional success and the ability to make quality presentations.

Author Bios: Alicia Bolivar Cruz is Professor of Business Organization and Sunday Summer-Tacoronte is Professor of Human Resources Management. Business Organization Area. Faculty of Economics, Business and Tourism both at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria