Certain words get brandished about quite loosely in public speaking domains, and many so-called experts often (in my experience) pinpoint confidence and authority as the two key factors that create an excellent public speaker.
And whilst I don't wholly agree with these terms as being the be-all and end-all. (for example, what about clear, free and expressive speech) I would like to discuss them, their meaning and how that can translate to a better understanding for your own reference and personal growth as a public speaker.
Confidence and authority are different concepts that can impact an individual's ability to influence others in different ways.
While confidence "might" appear more internal and seen as a personal trait, authority "seems" to be granted by external factors such as position or knowledge.
I say "Might and appears" as the appearance of confidence can be deceptive, and the presence of authority can also be fabricated.
What I mean is.
A person might indeed actually have confidence but not appear so (I talk about that more in this video here). Then again, someone who falls apart internally can give the impression they are the most confident in the room.
Same with authority. One might talk in a manner of authority and knowledge on a subject but be clueless about it. Also, they could be the most knowledgeable person but unable to articulate that knowledge before an audience.
WHAT A CONUNDRUM!
So confidence, real or not, can give the appearance of authority. And authority, real or not, has no bearing on a person's appearance of or feelings of confidence.
But whilst it's important to note that confidence and authority are not mutually exclusive. An individual can possess both confidence and authority, and they often complement each other in achieving success and influence.
However, it is also possible for someone to have one without the other, such as a confident but inexperienced individual or an authoritative but insecure individual.
Now if you're banging your head against a wall, why the fuck you care about this topic. Just for fun, I asked Chat GPT to list definitions of both confidence and authority, and here's the results.
Confidence (in public speaking):
Authority (in public speaking):
I asked for individual definitions also and chat GPT gave me this...
Confidence refers to an individual's belief in their abilities, knowledge, and skills. It is a subjective feeling of self-assurance and conviction that one can perform a task or make a decision effectively. Confidence is often built through experience, practice, and positive feedback.
On the other hand, authority refers to the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience. It is often bestowed upon individuals by an organisation, institution, or society based on their position, knowledge, or expertise. Authority is objective, as it is determined by external factors rather than personal beliefs or feelings.
In simpler terms, confidence is a personal trait that comes from within, while authority is a social construct that is granted by others. While both confidence and authority can be effective in influencing others, they are different approaches to achieving that influence. Confident individuals may use their self-assurance to persuade others, while authoritative individuals may use their position or knowledge to command respect and compliance.
So to summarise...
While confidence and authority are different concepts, they can work together to create a powerful and effective public speaker. Someone who is confident in their abilities as a speaker but also demonstrates authority and expertise on the subject matter is likely to be seen as more credible and persuasive by their audience.
And don't forget confidence and the appearance of confidence can be learnt, practised and achieved, sometimes easily and sometimes with more effort. But since it is so personal, all I can do is offer the tools that helped me ... like the ones in my public speaking master course. (glasses down and close up... Yes, I'm selling something!!!
Likewise, I can't help you become an authority on something, but I can help you and provide tools that make you feel, appear and even seem more authoritative to others. The more you learn and use those tools, the more authority and confidence you will feel, seem and become.
A link to my public speaking mastery course HERE as well as a link to this blog as a YouTube video in full.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As an Actor, Singer and Voice Coach Darren McStay, has spent the best part of three decades working professionally with his voice. On his Youtube channel, various tutorials covering Articulation, how to stop stuttering, nasal voice, how to voice act, how to speak more clearly, and many more are available...