A lot of people seem to want more of it. Tips and tricks abound. What does it really take?
You want to be a more confident presenter? Or is that what you want for your teams, your employees?
If you think there is a simple and instantaneously effective… tip, trick or technique, forget about it. People get nervous for different reasons, and the things that alleviate nerves are also varied and may need precise, personal, nuanced application.
Aside from drugs or brain surgery, which I don’t suggest, there is no quick fix.
If there was a simple, sure-fire solution, don’t you we might know about it? The people who make a living out of being confident in public – athletes, politicians, actors – don’t you think that someone might have unveiled the magic bullet?
It doesn’t exist.
What do we know?
The nerves triggered by public performance are not all bad, in fact they keep us safe. They tell us that we are in a high risk, possibly high return situation. Our senses become heightened. Our heart beats faster. We become alert. Energised. What we want to avoid is being overcome by nerves, not eliminate them altogether.
Confidence. What do we already know makes us feel more confident?
The way you dress. A good haircut. Make-up. Knowing your product. Knowing your script. Knowing your audience. Knowing that you are loved and admired. If appearing confident is important to your success, learn what your triggers are, and get yourself organised.
Some people might say that confidence comes from within, and that the thing to do is to fastidiously work your way through all your psychological issues… I gotta tell you, I’ve seen plenty of people come out of great therapy and in the end they are even more connected to the feelings that make them appear nervous. For some people, it might be useful to understand some of the psychology driving their thought process, but it is not the only way. In many cases, its counter productive.
Some people say, that if you stand up straight and pretend to be confident, then you will be confident. There have been close to 40 million viewings of Amy Cuddy’s TED talk about how power poses will make you feel more powerful. They even did it on Grey’s anatomy so it must be right. It may well not be right. In fact, the Harvard study conducted by Cuddy and fellow researcher Dana Carney has been discredited; the claims of an instant biological fix are “undeniably” false, according to Carney. Which is very disappointing. There was something so seductive about the idea of faking it until you make it.
It does not diminish the fact that when you stand up straight, when you move in certain ways, you will appear to be more confident. Just don’t expect that your feelings are going to support you.
Which brings me to my perspective.
Stop focussing so much on how your feel.
When I trained as an actor, I struggled with confidence; with debilitating self-consciousness. But not all the time. The breakthrough for me was a combination of self-direction and practice.
And I don’t expect my breakthrough will be the same as yours, but let me tell you what I know.
When people are connected to action, when they have a clear intention and do that, they appear much more confident.
As I always say, Communication is action. Presenting is action.
When you connect to what you are doing, and do that, when your focus is not internal, and how you are feeling, but out there in the world, action directed at moving other people, what know what you want to achieve, and maybe doing something that you have done before, … When your mind and body is occupied by the experience of acting on other people, or another person… You look more confident. You present with confidence. You engage in dialogue, in negotiation, in collaboration, in ways that appear confident.
Not arrogant. Not pushy. There are times to be confidently receptive.
But action is your way forward. Direct your attention to what you are doing.
Not simply, delivering a speech. When I talk about directing your attention to what you are doing, I am describing… awareness you can cultivate… skills you can practice… that are about what you are doing to your audience.
Are you welcoming them? Are you cautioning them? Humouring them? Admonishing them? Are you … intriguing them? Think in terms of transitive verbs – doing words – and your communication becomes active.
The work we do is to help people connect to the action in their communication. Clear intention. Familiar pathways to achieve the objective, and some devices, mechanisms of language that help you be more effective.
The people who are most confident in this world, are the people who have experienced themselves to be successful; who have experienced themselves to be effective.
If you want to be successful… an effective communicator, then you’ll want to understand the game. If you don’t know the game, if you don’t know what works and what doesn’t, how can you get better? How can you practice? How can you hold yourself to account? Say; “You did that well!” How can you grow in confidence?
If you want to learn a new way of looking at communication, one-way, two-way, presenting, coaching, consulting, mentoring, pitching, advising,… active communication in all its forms, we can help. Training. Coaching. Or conference presentations or video if you want to invite a large group of people to the discussion.
Communication and Collaboration. Get these right. Everything else follows.