Working at a start-up means taking risks and trying new experiments. This is one of the reasons our team is excited to come to work every day. However, taking risks can still feel scary. We wouldn’t have made our greatest discoveries if we had not also failed. We have to remain bold and keep going. At these nerve-wracking times, for me, the phrase “fake it til you make it,” has really come into play. Sometimes I feel a little hesitant to share my ideas, but then I use these tips and most of the time I begin to feel the confidence I have enacted. Don’t let fear hold you back and the next time you need a little confidence boost remember these tips.
Check your posture
When we are feeling nervous our posture can begin to sag as we sink down to be less noticeable. You may also find yourself wanting to lean on an object either for support or so you look like you are playing it cool. Instead, make an effort to stand up straight with your shoulders back and your head held high. This posture will make it easier to breathe (see our next tip) and will make you look sure of yourself. Some people also like to take a power pose before entering the event. For example, stand with your hands on your hips like a superhero, this has also been proven to boost confidence (just make sure you have some privacy for this ritual or you may get a few funny looks).
Obviously, you are still breathing because you are still alive, but be sure to check in with yourself about how fast you are breathing. A simple breathing exercise for calming both the nervous system and the mind is a timed breath where the exhale is longer than the inhale. When your exhale is even a few counts longer than your inhale, the vagus nerve sends a signal to your brain to turn up your parasympathetic nervous system and turn down your sympathetic nervous system.
Speak slower than you think you need to
The best public speaking tip I ever got was from my dad in the third grade. He said, “You can literally never speak too slowly.” Of course, this is not 100% true, but when I am speaking in front of a crowd and feel nervous it really is. If I speak at a rate that to me sounds like I am talking it slow-mo, this is when I get the best feedback about my pace. Practicing with someone you trust or in front of a camera is a great way to learn how you should adjust your pace before you have a huge audience.
Stop fidgeting… Hey, I said stop!
If you are anything like me this won’t be an easy one because you may not even realize you are doing it. Stopping this habit takes a LOT of practice. Your goal should be to remain still and only move deliberately. The easiest way to train for this is to practice in front of someone you trust who can let you know when you begin to fidget.
Take big steps
If you are entering or leaving the room, or are moving around while you are speaking, take long strides rather than hurried or short steps. Taking wider steps helps you exude confidence and command more control of the room. To enact this tip well, act as if you are in no hurry to stroll over to your destination.
Make eye contact
Eye contact is a major way you can show confidence while also looking trustworthy and engaged. If you are in a conversation, be sure to make eye contact with the person you are talking to and avoid looking down, a common practice when nervous. If you are speaking in front of a group make eye contact with individuals throughout the audience. It may not need to be said, but don’t be creepy, you should also take breaks with the eye contact.
Don’t fear silence
When we are nervous we tend to want to keep talking to avoid leaving an uncomfortable silence. However, leaving a moment for listeners to process what you are saying is important. In addition, if you are in conversation it gives the other person a chance to jump in to ensure you aren’t dominating the conversation. Finally, being comfortable with silence is a major indicator of confidence.
Plant your feet
When public speaking while standing, a common pitfall is shifting back and forth on one’s feet. It is a natural way to release all of that nervous energy, but it also makes you look shifty and unsure. When you are about to begin speaking, make a point of planting your feet and leaving them there. If you are sitting, be aware of crossing and uncrossing your legs which can make you appear fidgety.
Take up space
Never be afraid to take up space. When making hand gestures, bring your arms out wide and spread out a bit at the conference table. Hilary Clinton is great at this if you need some inspiration. Owning your space makes you look confident, but avoid making to many quick gestures which can lead to the opposite effect.
A last piece of advice; when in doubt, break out the smile! If you look like you are having fun people will respond well to you and soon you may find that the smile is there because you really are having a great time.
We hope these tips make you feel more confident the next time you are nervous, whether it be before a conversation with your boss or at a speech in front of 500 colleagues. Studies have shown that when we exude confidence from our bodies it really can translate to our brains! Do you have a tip for feeling confident? Share it with us on Twitter, @KuvioCreative. Stay confident!
Kuvio Creative is a web design and development agency that creates modern, innovative, and user-friendly websites and apps for small business and nonprofit clients. Learn more and chat with us today: www.kuv.io.
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