Confidence at Work: How to Share Your Message in Any Room

Confidence at Work: How to Share Your Message in Any Room

A very common question that people ask me is, ‘how does one develop the courage to express their message in a room full of people, whether it’s their peers, superiors, or strangers?

There are numerous possible answers to this, many of which depend on the person and the environment they’re in. For this blog, I’ll focus specifically on confidence as a point of solution, because I think this is the root of the issue for most people.

I’m going to share four reliable tips that I believe to be very helpful in building the confidence needed to express one’s message. The first will be to examine your story, the second is to put yourself out there and test your fear, the third is to be prepared, and the fourth is to develop a support network. Let us look at each of these in detail. 

1. Examine Your Story

Let’s start by examining your story. Confidence, a lot of times, has more to do with our perception of ourselves; how we think we fit in, our perceived value to others, our sense of worthiness, etc. When we feel less than others, it’s often because there is something that we have heard or something that we believe about ourselves, which can often be tied to some adverse experience(s) that we’ve had. Our stories are usually derived from the things we’ve seen and experienced happening around us, including what we’ve seen other people experience, be it our parents, our siblings, or others in our community.

I would therefore advise anyone who’s feeling less than confident, to start to look at themselves objectively. Take a step back and examine the things you believe about yourself and why.

Ask yourself: 

  • What is my story? When did I start feeling like I was less than others, whether in general or in specific situations?

  • Where did that story begin?

  • Does it make sense?

  • What do I need to unravel, unpack, and reevaluate for myself, to see where I need to reclaim my sense of self?

Doing the work of answering the questions will help you understand what you need to let go of in order to shift your perception and feel better about who you are.

Of course, this is by no means an easy task or a quick fix, but it’s certainly a worthwhile exploration. Be transparent with yourself about your inner thoughts as they can shape your external reality.

2. Put Yourself Out There

The second tip is to test the fear that you have by putting yourself out there. If you’re afraid of expressing yourself or expressing a message in a room, especially when you are the only woman, the only person of color, or the “only” anything else, it’s important to take the risk of putting yourself in the situation to test what you’re afraid of.

Almost always, our fear comes from a place of what we think is going to happen if/when we do put ourselves out there and share our message. You might be fearful that people will think less of you, or that what you have to say might get you fired, laughed at, embarrassed, humiliated, or a combination of these or other things. However, these fears can often be unfounded, and sometimes you’ve got to go there and understand whether or not your fear is truly rational and then negotiate around that.

Here’s a very short story about fear, and this is not communications fear, this is actually fear of water (aquaphobia), which was my fear. I didn’t learn how to swim until I was thirty years old and I was terrified of water. I couldn’t even put my face in the water! I had a swim instructor and I decided to take the class. I was committed to doing whatever the instructor said and what he told me to do during the second class was to jump into twelve feet of water! I believed that I would’ve drowned, that he wasn’t strong enough to save me, and that my body wasn’t buoyant. I had all of these ideas in my head about water and I was so afraid. That fear kept me from learning the technique of swimming because I couldn’t get past the fundamental belief that if I got in the water I would die! And yet…I jumped in the water. I couldn’t believe I did it! The first time that I jumped in, when I came up to the top I was crying hysterically. I had tears falling down my face and my instructor very wisely told me to get out and do it again, and I was too shocked to resist so I jumped in the water the second time. When I came up this time, I didn’t feel afraid and I noticed that I was buoyant. The fear, because I just went for it, left my body. I was able to learn how to swim every stroke you can imagine because by removing the fear, and by taking the risk of testing the outcome I thought I would have, I was able to then move into the action.

For some persons, the fear that prevents them from diving into a conversation or walking into a room and sharing their message is in the actual delivery of that message.

So, what do you do? You can start by taking small risks. If you’re afraid that people will laugh at you, put yourself in a position, perhaps, where you think you will be laughed at and see what happens. Either you don’t get laughed at or you’ll be laughed at and survive it. So, test the fear. What are you afraid of? What is your belief about what will happen, and how can you push the envelope a little bit by taking small risks to test whether or not your fear is founded?

3. Be Prepared

The third tip is to be prepared. Sometimes we don’t feel confident because we are not ready. Therefore, if you have a message to share, make sure that you’ve practiced until you feel comfortable enough to share that message with a reasonable degree of confidence.

Make sure that the words you want to use are the right ones. Make sure that you’re going in as prepared as you can be because, without preparation, confidence doesn’t come easily, unless you’re a person who can make impromptu deliveries with no problem. Even so, most people, including some of the best speakers and presenters, need to study and take time to prepare. They understand that they need to know more about their own message than the other people in the room.

A great way to look at this is that if your confidence can be lowered due to a lack of preparation, then with adequate preparation, you’ll be able to overcome your lack of confidence, and with that increased confidence, you can go on to express your message in a more impactful manner.

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4. Develop a Support Network

The last tip I want to give you on expressing your message in a room is to develop a support network in different areas of your professional life and for different settings so that there’s always a friendly face.

For example, if you’re going into a meeting and the message you want to express is about a particular idea, work on getting a buy-in beforehand. Seek around to find out who can advocate for you in the room so that you have people to fall back on. If you’re giving a speech and talking to people in a room of strangers, come early, introduce yourself, and get to know as many people as you can. Make eye contact and find the people who are buying what you’re saying and connect with them.

Having a support network, wherever you create it, whether it’s on the fly or in advance, helps you in those situations to feel more confident.

When You’re “The Only (X)” in The Room?

Finally, I just want to touch briefly on this issue of being “the only”.

I am a woman of color and when I started my career, I moved through my field at a younger age than a lot of my peers. As such, I’ve had the experience of either being the only woman, the only person of color, or the youngest in the room. I’ve been “the only” in a lot of things throughout my career. My personal thoughts on this are that people are people.

I have grown up with people with very diverse backgrounds, ranging from all walks of life and yes, there are situations where the power dynamic makes it so that it feels more difficult, intimidating, or simply nerve-racking when you are the only person of “X” demographic, background, or experience in the room.

This can be a bit overwhelming, which is all the more reason to own your value! When you’re in a business environment, you have to know and really own what you bring to the table, so that your station, your demographic, or your experience, doesn’t matter! It shouldn’t matter to you and if there are people treating you in a way that makes it feel that it does matter, you can address that differently by showing up every day and proving your worth.

From the point of view of having confidence, know that you are valuable, that you bring something needed to the table, and stand in that because that’s where your power comes from. Don’t downplay yourself and don’t feel like you’re less than others, even if and especially when you are “the only” anything in the room.