How do you feel when you need to speak English in a high-stakes situation, such as a presentation, interview, or meeting? Even if you’re comfortable in these situations in your native language, it’s normal to be anxious about speaking well in your second language when the pressure is on.
How can you ease “stage fright” when you must present yourself well in English? Rely on this classic English expression: “Fake it ‘til you make it”!
By pretending to be confident – that is, faking it – when you speak, you can increase your actual confidence. You see, the connection between your body and mind is powerful. When your body takes on postures and gestures of confidence, your mind will follow, relaxing and becoming more self-assured.
Carol Kinsey Goman, an internationally-known speaker on business leadership and body language, describes two ways to project confidence. The first is called the Method; it’s a technique sometimes used by actors to show emotion. To use the Method, think about a time in your life when you experienced the feeling you want to portray. For example, if you want to appear confident, recall a time when you felt confident, such as when you scored a goal in a soccer game or received praise from a teacher or manager. Try to remember that feeling so vividly that you can feel it again. Now, use that confidence as you speak.
The other technique to gain confidence is the “power pose”: feet apart, hands on the hips, back straight, and head help high. She compares it to the image of a superhero like Superman or Wonder Woman. Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy found that holding this position for two minutes before entering a stressful situation (like a presentation) adjusts your levels of brain chemicals to increase confidence and decrease fear.
So next time you feel nervous about speaking English, don’t let fear control you. In order to feel calm and self-assured, just fake it ‘til you make it!
For more speaking tips, check out our post on Dos and Don’ts for great English presentations.