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  • Writer's pictureJames Purvis

How to Communicate with Confidence

The majority of us still struggle with speaking in public and it continues to be one our biggest fears as humans. In business (especially in sales), effective oral communication is a critical skill and one that always needs improvement. Because of this, I took a course on 'What Makes a Good Speaker' conducted by Jeff Ansell who is a retired investigative reporter that now teaches Effective Communication at Harvard University.

Jeff's course is extremely powerful and his strategies and tactics can be leveraged day one.

Below are the highlights from the course and the methods I encourage you to implement in your daily practice to become a strong communicator in life and in business.


"Look like you mean what you're talking about and sound like you mean what you're talking about." - Jeff Ansell

Confident communicators connect to others through words, gestures, and voice via "The 3 V's."

  • Visual - How we look and carry ourselves (55%)

  • Vocal - How we sound, our tone and volume (38%)

  • Verbal - The words we use to communicate (7%)


Before your presentation, think of the words you want to describe how you want to see yourself and have others see you?


  • Confident

  • Knowledgeable

  • Engaging


During the conversation, what words would you use to describe how you want to see yourself and have others see you?


  • Genuine

  • Concern

  • Empathetic


Use simple words

  • Don't talk fancy

Use short sentences

  • Make your point, then put a period next to it. One thought, one time, one short sentence.

Identify your desired outcomes

  • Do you want to persuade them?

  • Are you introducing a new idea?

  • What do you need to consider the presentation a success?

  • Determine the words that best illustrate how you want to come across

    • Confident?

    • Inspiring?


  • Purpose of Presentation

    • Is the presentation to inform or to persuade?

    • Is it aimed to get the audience to take action?

    • What do I hope to accomplish with the presentation?

  • Introduction

    • Tell the audience the single most important reason why to listen to you

  • Main Ideas

    • Stick to only 3-4

  • Details

    • Information relevant to the audience

    • Statistics

    • Descriptive word pictures

    • Anecdotes / analogies

    • Visual aids

  • Conclusion

    • Opportunity to discuss the benefits

  • Call to Action

    • Tell your audience what you want them to do or what you need from them as a result of your information

"A wise man speaks because he has something to say. A fool speaks because he has to say something." - Plato


Making Every Word Count

  • Express words meaningfully by making every sentence sound different

  • Enunciate every word

  • Change pace and volume

  • Emphasize a single word in the sentence

Sounding Confident

  • Dont's

    • Uptalk - Undermines our authority and makes us sound uncertain

    • Hedging - Using qualifying phrases like "sort of," "kind of," or "it seems like."

      • "I think it's important to be an effective communicator." vs. "It's important to be an effective communicator."

  • Do's

    • Change your inflection or tone when changing topics

    • Stand up while talking on the phone

Power of the Pause

  • Pausing lets the speaker connect with people in a meaningful way

    • Give your audience time to hear, listen, think, process, assimilate, and store

  • When to pause

    • Before and after each sentence

    • After something important

    • After a rhetorical question

    • After a request or call to action

Slowing down

  • Stretch the vowel sounds in each word

  • Visualize your brain and tongue moving in perfect synchronicity

  • Talking slowly helps you control what you say

  • Only say the word you want

Using your eyes

  • Deliver one thought to one face at a time

  • Keep your eye contact with the audience to emphasize a powerful line

  • Make eye contact with one person to calm you

  • Hold eye contact without speaking to appear confident

Talking with your hands

  • Helps you think

  • Makes you look interesting

  • Makes you sound interesting

  • Makes you look like a leader

  • Helps you stay calm


  • Change the motion of your hands to match the content

"The worst speech you you'll ever give, will be far better than the one you never give." - Fred Miller


To summarize, if you want to truly communicate with confidence use the strategies and tactics from above. Practice in front of a mirror, or with your friends, family, and your coworkers. Any time you speak is an opportunity to use the techniques. Be mindful in how you are communicating and do the following:

  • Breathe

  • Focus on one thought at a time

  • Use inflection and emphasize words to strengthen your message

  • Maintain eye contact

  • Make peace with pausing

  • Use your hands when you talk

  • Use short and simply worded sentences

Most of all, say it like you mean it and look like you mean it!

Call to Action: In the next month, break it down by practicing the following:

Week 1: Hone your eye contact

Week 2: Focus on pausing

Week 3: Work on eye contact + pausing

Week 4: Layer in your hands

"They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel." - Carl Buechner



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