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At The Pickering Group we hear it more than anything else: how can I be more confident? But what exactly do people mean by confidence? For some it means a lack of fear, a feeling that failure is impossible. For others it’s conquering their internal doubts and criticisms. For some it’s the exhilarating fantasy of walking in totally unprepared and nailing every presentation, which, sorry to say, is just that – a fantasy. For a few, it’s starting a YouTube channel dancing in their underwear, and we can’t help with that. Well, we could, but we don’t want to.
Confidence around public speaking comes in two forms: the confidence you have in yourself, and the confidence your audience has in you. It’s perfectly possible to win the confidence of the audience while feeling completely unsure of yourself, just as it's possible to have full confidence in yourself and lose the trust of the crowd. By embodying the behaviour of confidence - appropriate eye contact, relaxed and open body posture, calm voice – you’ll encourage your audience to believe in your competence, no matter what turmoil is going on inside.
Okay. You’ve worked on concealing your nerves and you look the part, but let’s really dig down. Recent research has produced some scientifically proven, evidence-based ways to calm your nerves around presenting. The Pickering Group has compiled these into a comprehensive guide, with clear and active steps you can take in the run-up to your big presentation, from a few weeks before to the day of, and beyond.
We’ll look at just a few of them now, and you can download the full guide for future reference here.
Has anyone ever told you to calm down? Did you get mad just reading that? It’s the phrase most likely to escalate an argument to new heights of not-calmness. Don’t try to calm down. It’s okay to be nervous, and trying to force yourself to feel calm has been proven to backfire. Instead try to convert your nerves into excitement. The body response to both states is really similar, so tell yourself you’re excited to do the presentation. A little adrenaline can give us focus and energy, so it’s ideal to have a few butterflies.
We’ve been doing it since we came into this world, so you’d think we’d be better at it. Breathing is one of the most effective ways to reduce your heart rate and feel more grounded. Plus you need it for talking, so that’s a bonus. Try this exercise: Breathe in for a count of 3, then hold for a count of 4, then breathe out on a count of 5. Do it ten times. This exercise can help you sleep too, especially if your presentation nerves are keeping you awake the night before.
These are just some of the techniques we discuss in The Pickering Group’s comprehensive, evidence-based anxiety management guide, which you can download in full, for free, here. The Pickering Group’s Presentation Skills courses and private coaching can help you find your spotlight by unlocking your confidence and helping you become a more engaging, persuasive speaker. It’s an evidence-based process that works. Join us for inspiring content on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, or learn more about our courses here.
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