How Do I Get Confident Enough to Speak English in Front of People?

I couldn’t count how many times I’ve googled strategies to get confident enough to speak English in front of people. 

This is an issue I struggled with in the past, and I often held back whenever I had the chance to speak English in front of a large group.

If you’re facing a similar challenge, it’s perfectly normal. Speaking in front of a group is difficult because you have to listen, process what people are saying, and also come up with a response in real-time.

But much of that insecurity will go away if you are prepared. So today, I’m going to share some tips and recommendations that will help you get confident enough to speak English in front of people. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • Planning and practice pave the way

  • What to do in case of setbacks

  • Where do you need to focus?

  • Take it one step at a time

  • Your mindset matters


    Planning and practice pave the way

    One of the things that kept me from speaking English in the past was not knowing what to talk about. You know, the awkward silence. 

    To solve that, I started listing topics people often bring up in casual conversation.

    Let’s say you’re at a dinner with people you don’t know well. Wouldn’t you feel more confident if you could easily think of something to talk about?

    Well, that’s possible if you brainstorm potential conversations and have some of them prepared in advance. 

    You could start by commenting on the place you’re in:

  • I love this place! The service is wonderful. 

  • I come here a lot, they serve the best food. 

  • Have you eaten here before? 

  • Which plate do you recommend?

  • A simple and polite remark can put a smile on people’s faces and ease your tension. If a friend is having you over for dinner, it’s a nice gesture to compliment the food, for example.

  • The food was really good! 

  • That was delicious! 

  • Or you can ask people about their work and connections with the host:

  • You work with [name] right?

  • Was it a busy week for you?

  • How long have you been working with this company?

  • You can also ask people for recommendations:

  • I’m going to be here for a couple of weeks, any good places to grab a beer?

  • What’s a must-see around here?

  • Sometimes the hardest part is taking the first step. But once you start talking, you’ll notice that the conversation flows and you’ll forget about your insecurities. 

    So if you know in advance that you’ll be in situation where you may have to interact with others, be proactive, draft a conversation or dialogue and rehearse it until you feel comfortable. 

    Practice with conversation prompts

    You’ll find a lot of ready-to-use phrases and dialogues in this post including tips for small talk. And if you need ideas on how to introduce yourself, you’ll find some inspiration also.

  • So how do you know [name]?

    What to do in case of setbacks

    Being prepared also means planning for setbacks. This is something that helped me immensely when I was working on getting more confident in speaking English in front of people. 

    If you worry about making mistakes when speaking in English, you’ll find it useful to focus on this point. 

    I’m not talking about apologizing every time you mispronounce a word or make a grammar mistake. You don’t need to do that. English speakers understand that it’s not your first language and adapt to the situation. 

    But what if you didn’t catch something that someone said? Or what if you need to take a minute to think of an answer? 

    It’s not unusual to get lost when listening to English speakers. Just ask them to repeat what they said. You should never be embarrassed about it. Here’s what you could say:

  • Could you repeat the last part? I didn’t catch what you said.

  • Sorry, I didn’t get that.

  • Pardon me? Could you repeat that please?

  • Sorry–what was that?

  • If you need someone to speak louder, simply say:

  • Could you speak up please?

  • I’m having trouble hearing you. 

  • I don’t know what that means, do you mind explaining it to me?

  • [Word]? I don’t know that word. What does it mean?

  • There may be situations where you misunderstand part of the dialogue, you could answer by saying:

  • Oh sorry! I thought you meant [what you understood].

  • I think I misunderstood what you said. Did you say ____________?

  • The point is: don’t let these kinds of situations undermine your confidence when speaking English in front of people. Just learn to deal with them because they’re part of real and authentic conversations.

    What do you need to focus on?

    Once you start having real interactions, you’ll be able to identify the skills you need to improve. Even if things don’t turn out as you wanted them to, take them as learning opportunities.

    So whenever you get the chance to talk, pay close attention to figure out where you need to improve. Afterwards, write your thoughts on a list.

    One step at a time

    You don’t have to be the life of the party just yet!

    If you feel you’re still not ready to speak English in front of many people, you don’t have to do it. There are other ways to practice, and in time you’ll get confident enough to speak in front of a group.

    For example, you could get used to speaking to one person at first. Try to build your confidence by starting a conversation with someone you don’t know.

    I’m not implying you stop random people on the street to talk to them about the weather. But why not have a small conversation with the barista at your favorite coffee shop. You could ask, “How’s your day going?” or make a comment such as, “Busy day today, isn’t it?”

    If you don’t feel comfortable striking up a conversation yet, you could start by letting others take the lead. Answer questions with more details about yourself when asked. 

    A good exercise that has worked for me and my students is to come up with common questions someone might ask you, and practice how you’d answer them:

  • Why did you move there? How long will you be in the city?

  • How was your week?

  • What are your plans for the weekend?

  • So the more you practice, the higher your confidence levels will get. Yes, speaking in English especially in front of a group is intimidating at first, but I promise you that with time and practice the fear you feel will get smaller. The important thing is, don’t let it stop you! Feel the fear, and speak anyway, and watch it get smaller every time you take that brave step.

    Being able to communicate in a foreign language is enough reason to be proud of yourself. Remember that next time you need a push yourself to speak in front of people.

    Small steps like this one will help you get over your fear of speaking in English and build your confidence.

    Your mindset matters

    Remember, overthinking undermines your confidence. When we analyze everything that could go wrong, we end up holding back. 

    Improving your language skills will have a lot to do with how much you practice and interact with other speakers. Nothing compares to having a real conversation in English. No matter how much you learn in the context of a classroom, when you get out there, you’ll see that conversational English is a whole different world.