Unleash your confidence when communicating

Most people interact easily with family and close friends. But sometimes meeting new people, talking in a group setting, or speaking in public can cause anxiety, self-consciousness, and a fear of being embarrassed.

For finance professionals, communicating with confidence is key to helping managers, colleagues, and customers feel secure in their ability to perform at a high level, which can lead to a more successful career.

Paul Hatrak, CPA, CGMA, of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, owner of Hatrak Associates and author of Picture Perfect Business Success: How to Go From Confusion to Clarity in Your Business, describes a progressive journey to becoming an effective communicator.

Authenticity is key, he said: “You have to think clearly to speak clearly. You must possess confidence to portray confidence, and you must be credible to project credibility.”

Hatrak and other experts provide advice for developing confidence and coming across as a credible resource when you communicate with others.

Know your audience. Whether you are addressing a client or a business associate one-on-one, presenting to a small group, or speaking before a large crowd, your nerves can get in the way of a productive conversation or an effective speech, Hatrak said.

One strategy for overcoming nervousness is to learn all you can about your audience, such as their level of experience or their roles at their workplaces. This helps you find common ground that will help you feel more confident when you speak to them.

Prepare your message. Before making a presentation or going into a meeting, you must be clear about the message you wish to convey, said Atlanta-based Deborah Curry, CPA, CGMA, vice president and controller of Speakeasy Inc., an international executive communication consulting firm.

Preparation is the best way to achieve clarity in your messaging and to feel confident in your delivery. It will also keep you focused and help you avoid rambling and overexplaining, two traps that may cause your audience to tune out, Curry added. “Remember, less is more,” she said.

Ask questions. Asking questions and inviting feedback is a good way to break the ice, said Jay Sullivan, managing partner at Exec-Comm, an executive communication consulting firm in New York City. “If I ask my audience an intelligent question, and it prompts thoughtful responses, I will appear smart and confident,” he said. “Being a good communicator comes down to asking good questions, and really listening to the answers.”

Sullivan suggested posing queries that open conversations, help you avoid making assumptions about your audience’s needs, and elicit what is important to those with whom you are speaking. Three sample questions are: What is on your agenda? What is most important for us to talk about from your perspective? How can I help you?

Make eye contact. Making eye contact and focusing on individuals in your audience can help calm your nerves and project confidence, according to Sullivan.

“If I’m speaking before 30 people, I don’t scan across the entire audience,” he said. Instead, Sullivan picks out individuals, makes eye contact with them, and talks directly to them for full sentences.

Step outside your comfort zone. One of the best ways to build confidence is to do things that make you feel uncomfortable, including public speaking, collaborating with others on projects, and talking to strangers, said Curry.

Hatrak has found that successful people make a habit of doing things that make them uncomfortable, and that’s how they grow in confidence. “Embrace the moments you start to feel uncomfortable,” he said. “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”


Adapted from: “Unleash your confidence when communicating”, by Teri Saylor, a freelance writer based in the US, published on FM magazine on 18 February 2022.

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