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Ed Rigsbee's SucceedinSpeaking.com

Speaker Tips from Ed Rigsbee, CSP


On 2/9/08, I requested of my professional speaker network at www.linkedin.com; As a professional speaker, from where does your platform confidence emanate?

The answers came mostly from Americans, however some from as far away as Australia. The following answers are listed in the order received:


Dale Irvin wrote:

It emanates from knowledge. If you know the audience and you know the material you should have all of the confidence you need. If you still flop, your confidence comes from the fact that you have a "plan B" in your pocket.


Steve Coscia wrote:

My platform confidence emanates from my experiences in twenty-plus years of customer service management. Since customer service is my only topic, I know my audiences sense that I did what they currently do. They believe in the integrity of my message. The mutual respect between me and my audiences gives me the confidence to push the envelope.


Jeffrey Hansler wrote:

For me, it has been the journey and now the unique journey. Some of the dragons are slain and some embraced and some are still hiding nearby: fear, isolation, ridicule, pride, humility, belief, love. At the beginning it was the knowledge of the audience, the material, the persona and now is the knowledge of how to transcend the boundaries and bring others along for as long as they desire. I am confident only in the path and that I am on it.


Randy Pennington wrote:

1. Confidence in my material and expertise. I know that what I have to say is important and relevant to the audience's needs. I have done my research and know what I need to do. The work has been put in to ensure I can be confident in what I'm going to say before I ever walk on platform.
2. Experience and confidence in my skills. There are very few situations that I haven't seen over the years. The comfort in knowing that I have previously succeeded in difficult situations gives me confidence that I can handle anything that comes up.
3. Obligation and duty. The audience and the person who hired me expect a level of confidence from me. It is part of the package for the fee I am paid. To show less than a level of confidence that increases the opportunities for success is taking money I didn't earn.


Warren Evans wrote:

Confidence comes from knowing:

That what you have to say will be of value to these people.
That you can say it in a way they will enjoy hearing it.

Sounds trite, but there is a lot of waterfront in here.
Everything from purely humor to creating the discomfort of challenged thinking.
"value" & "enjoy" are situational to your purpose, but within those parameters is the 'knowing' that let's you stand & deliver.

I think you get to the 'knowing' from experience . . . having delivered similar things to like groups on numerous occasions, and getting the feedback that says it worked.

We get into trouble when we get into "absoluter knowing" . . . no question, doubt,
hope-I-got-this-right-for-this-group at all . . . that's when we hit arrogance.

Having confidence is good . . . being so cock-sure that you have inkling of worry at all I think is a bad sign.
Great stagecraft will get you through almost any situation, but the pre-work that goes into assuaging the bagging concerns, and builds the confidence, is what gets you re-booked.

Confidence comes from the knowing of experience, and the not being absolutely sure each time.

Hope this helps . . . actually, just hope it makes sense : - )


Lindee Brown Larsen wrote:


Excellent question


After 33 years plus of professional singing and speaking the only way to go is up. (Meaning spiritual).


I rely completely and whole heartedly on the Divine.


The Source of all which is also the Spark within me.


I ask for myself to simply be an instrument and a vessel for the Love to work through me.


Yes, I do my homework, I learn the necessary information--but I do it first with the idea that it's not me speaking or singing--it's True Source---my True Self can come forth if I get out of the way---that is....of course... my brain.

I also ask to say what needs to be said to this particular audience and for the highest vibration of love to pour forth. Anything else is my thinking which can be flawed and or skewed by my own limited perspective.


It's heart work, not brain work.


The hearts' power is infinitely more powerful than the brain---and your' talking to the queen metaphysical teaching here, Ed, a Religious Science Practitioner  a life long student of truth---, third generation Unity kid, and I've read more books on the subject of spiritual transformation than I care to share, it's not in the thinking---it's in the heart.


If more people knew how powerful the heart was, they'd be using it and becoming so much more powerful---in a Good way!


Lindsay Adams wrote:

My confidence comes from being an expert in my topic and knowing my "stuff". I am far more confident on the material I know best and have practiced and polished.

I am also confident because I have been speaking now to groups for 18 years so I am very comfortable in front of people and with a microphone.


Lou Heckler wrote:


I always had an ease in front of groups, dating back to grade school. I was given many opportunities earlier than most would have to build on that confidence: class office roles in high school, anchoring two television newscasts a day at age 19 on the North Carolina public television system, etc.  Critically important: I married at age 21 and Jonellen (wife) always expressed confidence in me...even as she does now.


Gene Siciliano wrote:

My platform confidence comes from my technical expertise and to a lesser degree from my physical appearance on the platform.

I am a content expert and a seasoned consultant in the field I speak on, financial management of small and middle market companies. Anything that goes into a speech comes from actual consulting success in using it in some fashion in a consulting environment.

Also, I know I have the requisite amount of grey hair and strong speaking voice that people pay attention when I speak off the platform, so I believe (rightly or wrongly) that it carries over to some degree when I'm on the platform.


Geoffrey Bryan wrote:

Boy, this is a tough one for me. Let me see if I can ramble usefully at all.

1. To start with, I think I was wired differently at birth. Although I was no screaming extrovert as a youngster, I was one of the rare kids who wasn't at all nervous getting up in front of the class to talk or do something. It's not that I craved opportunities to do this, it's simply that it wasn't at all a big deal. So I think something in my nature suppressed the nerves that other people seemed to experience when presenting to others.

2. At the same time, I did experience some nerves when I began practicing law and had to appear in court. It was helpful here just to get some appearances under my belt, but I also benefited greatly from a series of classes I took with some acting teachers in L.A. who specialized in teaching lawyers how to do better in court. One of the things they taught was a fairly extensive set of relaxation and focusing exercises to be performed before stepping into court. These could be done in the men's room or some other private location, and I found them extremely helpful. I still go through a version of this before any kind of performance.

3. There is no question in my mind that preparation -- knowing the material cold, thinking through how it will be presented, practice, previous experience with the same material, learning from past mistakes -- has a huge impact. I always think of Mark Twain's remark about "the calm confidence of a Christian with four aces."

4. I have also benefited from training in acting, presenting, improvisation, and related skills. It allows me to understand better what is happening when I am in front of people, and to take advantage of my natural gifts while playing down things that tend to work against me.

5. There is also an intellectual side, which derives from the realization that most of the people in any audience WANT you to succeed. They want to learn something, or be entertained, or be taken on a journey with you. As long as you treat them with respect, and don't do anything to turn them against you, the audience members are on your side. This is a huge insight (and demonstrates the foolishness, to me at least, of tricks like "imagining that everyone in the audience is naked" or some such).

6. Finally, perhaps, there is the realization that the perfect presentation has yet to be given. There are inevitably flaws or kinks, at least from the presenter's perspective. Yet audiences are still appreciative, and many times don't even notice what may seem to you like a glaring screw-up. The ability to relax and realize that you are only human, and can only aspire to "suck less" with each successive presentation, goes a huge way toward making things more comfortable and relaxed, which in turn helps make the presentation better. Audiences to some extent take their cue from you as to whether the presentation is any good.

7. I guess there is one other technical point I should add. I was coached long ago to make sure that the opening and closing of the presentation were thoroughly prepared and committed to memory. Knowing that you have mastered a strong beginning and a strong ending would be a good confidence booster.


Kenny Zail wrote:

I believe true confidence comes from preparedness. Counterfeit confidence is when you try to convince others of your expertise.


John Haskell wrote:

My confidence comes from knowing that:

1. It is the "right" audience. There are people I "talk to" and those I don't. I can't have confidence if it is the "wrong" audience. I've learned to avoid those audiences like the plague.

2. If I'm doing a program that is "mine". I don't want to get in front of an audience unless I'm talking about a subject that I really "own".

3. If I am 110+% prepared--physically, mentally and technically. I hate not feeling well or having the technology messed up, so I make sure I'm 110% across the board.


David Rohlander wrote:

Self awareness based on actual past experience that has been successful in the eyes of self as well as others. Learning from past failures and having a preponderance of past success. A fundamental belief that all experience has the potential to be beneficial.


Neen James wrote:

I believe platform confidence should be real. I know that if I truly turn up 100% authentic every time I speak wondering how I can best serve my audience, there is no need to 'fake it'. On platform I chat with my audiences about topics I feel comfortable with and enjoy talking about. If they ask a question I don't know the answer to I simply ask the audience for their assistance or find the answer for them. Having confidence is contagious; if you have it then it rubs off on your audience too.

My confidence comes from knowing that my audience and I are simply having a conversation, no reason not to be confident really! It also helps I have several years of experience, trust my knowledge, trust my audience and I have a sense of humor. Being able to laugh if anything throws you or happens on platform also shows confidence and helps your audience relax too.


Michael Turner wrote:

Platform confidence comes from thorough understanding of your subject as well as years of experience in your area of expertise. You exude comfort, poise, and confidence when you have the ability to deliver a range of content in a variety of settings and with a variety of audiences.


Marc Bachrach wrote:

1) 29 years of experience... The habit of standing up to speak, knowing I have something interesting to present and that I've been received well countless times in the past (well, I've lost count, anyway)
2) Preparation.
3) Self-hypnosis
4) Interacting with members of my audience beforehand.


John Shackleton wrote:

Outside of events like sky diving, which involve physical danger; lots of people avoid fearful situations because they donít want to fail or perhaps more accurately they donít want to be seen to fail. Failure itself isnít what bothers many people; itís the idea that others will see them fail that causes the fear. Public speaking is one of the most common fears in modern society but how much real physical danger are people facing on stage? I suppose you could be hurt by the rotten vegetables but in truth most people are scared of what the audience might think of them.

The athlete who is nervous about his performance faces the same challenge Ė if he was certain that no matter what he did, he couldnít lose the race then heíd have no nerves but this situation never exists so the athletes train themselves to use the fear rather than let the fear use them. If we let the fear use us we will run away but if we can harness the fear and use the power that it provides then we can do an amazing job.

The ability to use the fear is what we call confidence and fortunately itís a skill that everyone can develop. It isnít genetic, something that only a chosen few are born with, itís a skill anyone can learn as long as they are prepared to face their demons and attempt the thing they fear over and over again, accepting that failure is a necessary part of the learning process. Action cures fear Ė nothing else.

Itís interesting but most top athletes will tell you that the fear never goes away; they just get better and better at using it to help them perform. As many people have said; the butterflies in the stomach will always be there, however with practice we can get them to fly in formation.

I get my own speaking confidence from three areas:

Preparation. It's my experience that most people don't practice enough. Even after 20 years of professional speaking I still practice at least one small part of my keynote almost everyday.

Experience. If I feel some nerves then I review my own experience in my subject and compare that to the likely experience of my audience and I almost always come out on top. Knowing more than them makes me the expert and gives me confidence.

People. I've found if I can spend sometime speaking with my audience before I go on stage, finding out their wants, fears and needs then they become more human and less scary! When I do this I always meet someone nice or hear a great story that I can talk about from stage and I've then got a friendly face in the audience to concentrate on.


Philippa Gamse wrote:

Confidence comes from knowing my stuff and hoping that I can deal with any question thrown my way - including knowing when I don't know the answer, but do know where to find / research it.

Lack of confidence comes when I get nit-picked to death . . .


George Morrisey wrote:

My platform confidence comes from two things: knowledge of and experience with my subject matter and knowledge of and relationship with my audience. Since most of my audiences are relatively small (25 and under), the second of these is generally easier than with large audiences. However, even when I do speak to larger audiences, I make a point of talking with as many of them as possible in advance of the meeting and during the time prior to my presentation.


Odette Pollar wrote:

The most common answer I suspect that you will hear is that it comes from knowledge of one sort or another. An in-depth knowledge of the subject being discussed or thorough preparation; both true for me. So is experience--the more you do it the easier it becomes--also true for me. However the real source of confidence for me personally springs from one source. I am not afraid of people.

This might sound strange but much of my comfort in front of a group is based on my absolute understanding and belief that they are not out to get me and that we will like each other.


Barbara Mintzer wrote:


My confidence comes from (1) my conviction to what I am speaking about, and (2) being very well prepared when I walk on the platform. I believe that what I have to say is of value to my audience. I believe my style of speaking (very conversationally with humor and well paced) will give my audience an experience that will be of interest, enjoyment and value to them. I ALWAYS prepare thoroughly before my presentation, and that is a real confidence booster. I know my subject, I know my audience, I have customized my presentation to address their needs, so I believe I am prepared should any unforeseen occurrences happen.


Jim Cathcart wrote:

An interesting and valuable question Ed.
My confidence comes from knowing that the principles I teach are universal and also realizing that their application may vary with each audience or person. So I spend much time studying my audience and thinking about the one overriding question that I need to answer with every speech: "Why would they want to learn what I have to tell them?"
Until I answer that, I'm not ready to address them.
I also remind myself that I know what I know, and I know it very well. They may know about it but I know it thoroughly. It's like when I addressed an audience of Doctors last night. I knew very little about medicine but they knew equally little about my topics.
That makes it worthwhile for them to learn from me and vice versa.
I also start every speech by reminding myself to Respect, Admire and Like my audience. That's an idea I once got from the late Judge Lee Shapiro.


George Torok wrote:

Challenging question.

I do a few physical things to prepare myself just as I start to speak:
Breathe slowly and deeply,
Smile and stand proud while being introduced,
Start the presentation with a long pause while catching the eyes of a few audience members.

While speaking, I have given myself permission to laugh at my own obvious goofs. That seems to relax me and warm the audience - which boosts my confidence - "they like me".

There are still those occasional panic attacks - "they don't like me". That's when I tell myself "They don't know that they were supposed to laugh."

Stephanie Vance wrote:

For me, there are three main factors, specifically:

1) Knowing my topic: it really helps that I speak on a very niche subject (effective citizen advocacy) and have the background to demonstrate I know what I'm talking about.

2) Trusting my audience: if I'm ever nervous, I always remind myself that the audience doesn't want to have a bad time -- they want to have a great experience and, in many ways, are pulling for me. So I try to think of every speech as a collaborative experience.

3) Being myself: I find that when I try to change my style to suit a client it never works very well. So now I always tell people that if they want a serious, policy-wonkish kind of presentation, I'm not going to be appropriate for their audience.


David Markovitz wrote:

Platform confidence comes from being prepared. Know your stuff (content) and know your audience.


Joe Sherren, CSP, HoF wrote:

My real confidence comes from the fact I have experienced what I teach. My topics are management, leadership, strategic planning, sales and running corporations. I have done all of the above. At times have failed, then other time greatly succeeded. What I speak about was not learned from others, or a book. It comes from having lived through the experience.

Dale Collie wrote:

Ed ... good topic ... as with most things I've experienced in life, confidence on the platform comes from preparation, practice, and confidence in our equipment. As a US Army Ranger I found that the better prepared we were the more confidence we had. We had to know how to complete the task. We needed confidence in our equipment. We required practice. The more we prepared, the more confident we were in execution of the mission.

The same thing worked for us in corporate America and now on the platform.

If we cannot trust our preparation or equipment, we cannot be confident in our performance. The more we practice, the more prepared we are to stand before the audience and deliver.


Rob Waldo Waldman wrote:

Preparation, preparation, preparation. When you're prepared, you feel more comfortable in your skin. And when that happens, you can relax and focus more on connecting with your audience. When you connect, people listen.


Ron Lee wrote:

My platform confidence emanates from absolute certainty in the fact that my knowledge and experience will benefit most of those present.



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