Whether you're courting potential investors or presenting at a staff meeting, you need to project confidence. Your self-assurance shows others that you believe in your business ideas and helps you sell them effectively.
In some ways, how you present an idea matters more than the idea itself. "Emotional energy and nonverbals are more important than content," says Blake Eastman, a serial entrepreneur and founder of The Nonverbal Group, a Manhattan-based consulting firm that offers body language classes for business leaders. "Investors talk about investing in people, not investing in ideas."
Learning to appear confident is about becoming congruent, meaning that how you look and sound matches what you're saying. For example, if you're talking about your product's most exciting feature, your expression should be big, your voice energized, and your body engaged. Fidgeting and staring at the floor would look out of sync.
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"Congruency is the ability to truly believe in what you're saying," Eastman says. It's a matter of being fully engaged in your message -- emotionally and intellectually. That conviction can be hard to muster in a high stakes presentation, but you can learn to do it at will with simple awareness and practice.
Try these tips to help you look (and feel) more confident:
1. Watch yourself rehearse on video. Watching your performance is the easiest way to recognize room for improvement. "Video analysis shows you when you're not being fully congruent," Eastman says.
As you watch, look for moments that seem awkward or unconvincing. Notice if you break eye contact, and monitor the enthusiasm in your voice and body. Try to remember what you were thinking or feeling during the weaker moments -- addressing any doubts or anxieties will help you move past them.
2. Speak from memory. When you're presenting an idea, it's easy to lose your passion as you're plodding through the details. To appear confident, pull yourself away from power point slides or notes. "The pitch needs to come from emotion," Eastman says. "That's what's most effective -- when people just speak from the heart."
Imagine you're at a bar telling a friend what your company does and why it matters. "Show your conviction and belief in the product," Eastman says. That emotional energy appears more confident and inspires others to believe in what you're doing.
3. Match your emotions and body language. "Movement is incredibly important," Eastman says, especially when it comes to convincing others of your confidence. Physical movements that match your message hold others' attention more effectively and seem much more convincing.
As you present, engage your face, hands, and body to help you communicate a point. If you are excited, you might walk around or make bigger gestures. Or, if you are explaining a problem, your brow might be furrowed and your voice darker. "There should be a shift as you’re talking about different emotions," Eastman says.
4. Act without hesitation. When you talk with others, appearing decisive is especially important. "Confidence is really expressed in A to B movements," Eastman says, meaning confident people show no hesitation between the decision to act and the action. Doubt makes the movement less fluid and betrays a lack of confidence.
Practice acting in one fluid movement and catch yourself in moments of self-doubt or hesitation. Ask, what is the worst that could happen if I just do this? Or, what is it that makes me unsure? Answering those questions will help you overcome your reservations.
Nadia Goodman is a freelance writer in Brooklyn, NY. She is a former editor at YouBeauty.com, where she wrote about the psychology of health and beauty. She earned a B.A. in English from Northwestern University and an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University. Visit her website, nadiagoodman.com.