5 Ways to Project Confidence in Front of an Audience

You might have a great idea or results to share, but if you don’t deliver your message with confidence, it will fall on deaf ears.

When you are presenting or speaking in front of an audience, you’re being judged on your confidence and competence, not just your content, and the way you appear and sound matters.

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Look and sound as strong as your content, and you’ll find a receptive audience.

A study on CEOs giving IPO presentations found that even hardened financial advisers judge a leader’s “competence and trustworthiness” within as little as 30 seconds. These snap judgments are so powerful CEOs who rated the highest for their executive presence in the study enjoyed higher initial public offering valuations.

Here are five keys to look and sound like a leader people will want to follow whenever you’re presenting:

Dress 25 percent better than anyone else in the room.

The evidence shows that we size people up as soon as they walk into a room. And the first thing we notice is a person’s clothes.

Your clothes need to be appropriate for the situation, but aim to be slightly more polished than the rest. James Citrin, a leading CEO recruiter, once advised job candidates to dress 25 percent “more formal” than the prevailing dress code at the company.

Update your wardrobe once or twice a year, wear clothes that fit your body type, choose colors that compliment your skin or hair color and avoid worn or scuffed shoes.

Pace your delivery.

We can’t do much about our vocal quality without extensive singing lessons to control our breathing and pitch.

We can, however, improve our vocal delivery and pace. If you’re giving a webinar or online presentation where your audience only hears your voice, it’s good to keep your pace at 150 words a minute.

Speaking too fast will harm your credibility. If you are talking live with your group, you can go at a slightly faster pace since that is more natural for face-to-face conversations, but still be careful not to rush.

Replace long words with short ones.

If you want to sound smart, use simple words. Long, convoluted sentences and jargon don’t make you sound smart at all – just the opposite.

Using simple words doesn’t imply dumbing down your message. You gain credibility and respect when you’re able to articulate complex ideas in simple language.

Rehearse under stress.

Neuroscientists who study high-performing athletes and professionals have found that the most successful practice under mild stress.

In other words, they rehearse under conditions similar to those they’re likely to encounter during the actual event.

Before an important presentation, consider gathering a few people to watch a dress rehearsal, even if it’s just in your living room.

Maintain an open posture.

Studies have shown that complex thinkers use complex hand gestures. Don’t keep your hands in your pockets or by your side.

Use hand gestures that are natural and authentic. One tip is what body language experts call “open posture.”

Having two hands, palms facing up, above the waist would be considered open. A closed posture would be two hands clasped in front of your waist or arms folded across your chest.

You might have a great idea or results to share, but if you don’t deliver your message with confidence, it will fall on deaf ears. Look and sound as strong as your content and you’ll find a receptive audience.

This article originally appeared on Harvard Business Review and was republished with permission.

Carmine Gallo is the author of "Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great.”

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