If only you could bottle confidence

Jayne Constantintis


What do the former Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Frans Timmermans; Sir Ken Robinson; and Ellen DeGeneres have in common?

Perhaps these are unlikely bedfellows, but they were all nominated by survey respondents as engaging and interesting speakers, according to some recent research carried out by Jayne Constantinis, herself a PRCA trainer on confidence and public speaking.

In particular, Ken Robinson was noted for a laugh out loud moment when describing how schools kill curiosity; Ellen DeGeneres took her audience on a painful and personal journey; whilst Frans Timmermans addressed the UN about the MH17 plane crash and was commended for his simplicity and humility.

Each one of these demonstrated skills and aptitudes valued by their audience, particularly being authentic; showing vulnerability; passion; humour; poise, yet were professional and rehearsed. Plus there was substance to what they were saying with simplicity of message. All three examples, took their audience on a journey.  

Gosh, intimidatingly, that complete combo seems to suggest superhuman skills and levels of confidence. If only you could bottle that and take it when you need it most?


Perhaps it is no wonder that in a 2017 YouGov poll, glossophobia, the fear of public speaking, was the fourth most common phobia amongst British adults. A fifth felt terrified by the notion of standing up in front of a crowd.  Public speaking came in higher than a fear of spiders (18%), clowns (12%), enclosed spaces (10%) and the dark (5%).

And interestingly, women are over twice as likely to be ‘very afraid’ of public speaking when compared to men.

That means in all likelihood for every five people you work with, at least one of those will be bottling it every time they’re called to a large meeting or required to present or pitch. And often the root cause of glossophobia is a crippling lack of confidence.

What can you do about confidence?

This is something that Jayne looks to tackle in her training.  I had the pleasure to attend a taster session of Jayne’s training at last year’s PRCA Leadership Academy. Her session was entitled ‘Leadership with gravitas’ and we looked at different ways, in fine detail, about how we all might tap into our inner orators.

Those that know me personally will know that I was not a shy child; a fear of public speaking has never held me back (ichthyophobia or a fear of fish is another story entirely.)  Yet, it’s one thing having the gusto to get up on stage, it’s another to deliver a compelling performance.  

Just a few insights that immediately improved my public speaking game:

  • I’m too old for ‘winging it’. That might have worked at school, but leads to a confused presentation.
  • Like all content, the audience is king. Think of them as individuals not a homogenous body. And consider what do they know about the subject you are talking about?
  • How will you make them feel. In the responses from Jayne’s survey, people remembered speakers for how they made them feel not really what they spoke about.

Can you learn gravitas?

And what about gravitas – can you ‘learn’ gravitas? I’m not going to lie, I thought this session would be full of cringy speak and too many positive affirmations. (Sorry Jayne – I’ve learned!)  

Gravitas is conveyed in so many ways. How we dress; not necessarily power dressing Apprentice-style but feeling comfortable.  Arriving early so that you are well prepared and can familiarise yourself with the space.

Embracing the hesitations. Even today I’m about to go on live radio to talk about our client, Canned Food UK. I don’t necessarily know every question they will ask and I will pause, but that’s ok.  

It’s even in the way we stand and sit. There’s a whole twenty minutes dedicated to this by Amy Cuddy here.

So, the really excellent news is that you join me for glossophobia anonymous, gain all these insights and more from Jayne herself at her ‘How to grow your own gravitas – confidence in communications’ course at 10am in Oxford, 27th March 2019. Sign up via PRCA.  See you there.

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