Guest Blog by Jonathan Li, President of The Expressive Leader

The first time I spoke in front of a group, my hands were shaking and my legs were trembling.

“G-g-g-g-good morning everyone,” I stuttered my opening.  “Today I will talk about…”

This was a terrible experience, and it motivated me to overcome my fear of public speaking. I read books, I watched TED talks, and I worked with public speaking coaches.

The next time I spoke a few months later, it was to an audience of about 200 people. Yes, I was still nervous, but this time I had tools and knowledge to help me, and I knew the audience wanted me to succeed. In fact, once I focused on the needs of my listeners, I found that I gained more confidence.

Because of these events, I believe there are three simple steps to becoming a confident speaker, and that’s why I created The Expressive Leader System.

You can learn more about this system by watching my TEDx talk, How to speak with confidence. But, in general, the steps I advocate to erase fear and doubt are:

  1. Prepare

I got a great tip from Hall of Fame speaker, Patricia Fripp: Whenever I have trouble targeting my message as I create my presentation, I ask myself, “If you could have one sentence instead of the entire talk, what would you say?”

Let’s say I decide that sentence would be “Go for your dreams and never give up.” Now, it’s easier to come up with personal stories and examples that illustrate my ideas and help people paint a picture in their minds. From this base, I can write a memorable speech.

  1. Practice

We’ve all heard that “Practice doesn’t make perfect.” However, practicing with a good coach can help you come pretty close to perfect.

I wanted to have a powerful voice so I worked with celebrity voice coach, Roger Love. He has worked with successful leaders including Tony Robbins and Suze Orman. With Roger, I learned exercises that warm up my voice. It helps my voice sound powerful and clear, and that actually gives me more confidence.

  1. Perform

Confident speakers are performers. They express ideas effectively and convincingly.

I had to speak in front of a group of CEOs, and I was worried that they might think, “Who is this guy? He’s too young, and he’s not qualified. What can he tell me?”

And then I remembered something I learned from Richard Branson: “Picture you’re talking to friends in the living room.” This will help you feel relaxed and in control.

I arrived at the venue early to get to know the audience members. “Hi I’m Jonathan. It’s good to meet you.” When I was on stage, people no longer thought of me as a stranger; I was a friend.

After the talk, people said, “Jonathan, I liked what you had to say. Can you work with me?”

In conclusion, remember that to speak with confidence, you should follow three steps: Prepare, practice, and perform. These are the keys to my Expressive Leader System. They help me share my message with confidence, and I’m sure they will help you, too.

Jonathan Li teaches TEDx speakers how to confidently deliver their message and inspire their audience. You can reach him at

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