Confidence Can Take You Further than Ability, Experience, and Charisma, According to Science!
What do you suppose would give your presentations more punch? More training? Professional PowerPoint design? (We recommend this.)
A facelift and tummy tuck?
Perhaps another PhD?
Sure, all those things would probably help. But there’s an inexpensive, noninvasive, and easy-to-fake method for improving your presentations, and it’s as simple as standing up straight:
Project more confidence.
Now, the pseudoscience of self-esteem has produced a library’s worth of bad advice, based on the unproven assertions that (1) high self-esteem is the key to success and (2) positive thinking improves outcomes. In fact, overconfidence may actually sabotage your efforts at improvement, not to mention your relationships, social life, and career. So don’t let your head get too big.
That said, projecting more confidence in the context of a speech or presentation convinces audiences to rate you smarter, more attractive, and more authoritative. If you actually feel more confident, you may also be able to overcome expectations of failure, increase access to memories, and deliver a truly better performance.
Best of all, you don’t need to take an expensive seminar to boost your confidence. There are plenty on offer, of course, but try these quick fixes first.
- Check your posture. We weren’t joking when we said this was as easy as standing up straight. This is one of the best 22-minute Ted Talks ever, which describes how holding one of five simple “power poses” for two minutes can transform even the meekest speaker into a confident alpha power player.
Try this one next time you ask for a raise or date, it really (usually) works!
- Practice. It may not make your presentation perfect, but a few minutes in front of a mirror or friend will give you a pinch of added confidence. That will help your audience psychologically gloss over any glitches, and believe that you delivered a flawless speech.
- If you find that you’re having problems delivering a portion of your speech—repeatedly pronouncing “nuclear” as “nuk-yoo-lar,” for example—rewrite that stumbling block. Sure, you’ll probably get it right if you spell it out, or practice it 50 times. But why waste precious time, and confidence, worrying about an entrenched habit while on the podium? “Atomic” is an acceptable synonym.
- Relax and remember that most presentations are mediocre at best, and key members of your audience have probably given a few stinkers of their own. We’re all human, which means you don’t have to be perfect as long as you get a memorable message across.
Marsha aced her debate and Jan passed her driving test, using this one weird trick!
- Look your best. Whether that means regular workouts, a mani/pedi, or just your lucky black turtleneck, a grooming ritual will temporarily boost your self-confidence. This isn’t just because you look better; in one study, men spritzed with cologne were rated more attractive in unscented photos. As a bonus, exercise also unleashes a cascade of hormones that can increase confidence for several hours.
- Arrive Early: Get to the venue a few minutes before everyone else, and scope it out. Do a couple of power poses, practice in a mirror, and make yourself comfortable. If you’re more comfortable, you’ll project more confidence. And everyone wins.