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Present with confidence

Good presentations require the appearance of confidence. Confidence comes from practice and, to some extent, choice. Even if you find presenting nerve-wracking, you can use these tips to seem more confident than you feel.

Physical presence: When people feel nervous in front of a group, they may freeze or shuffle. Both are distracting. When presenting, every movement should be purposeful. Depending on the nature of the presentation, you may stand or sit, but wherever you are positioned, pull your shoulders up, control your hand movements and smile. Also, try to lessen the distance between you and the audience to create a sense of camaraderie.

Your implicit message needs to be: “I want to listen to your point of view; I respect your opinions and perceptions, even if I disagree with them. I also want you to respect me, even if you disagree.”

Gestures: Using your hands can create warmth by making you seem open and relaxed. Use them to help tell your story, but don’t use them in a way that will distract from what you are saying.

Active listening: Demonstrate your interest and respect by listening, questioning, clarifying and summarising in a way that does not cut across or undermine anyone.

Claiming the space: You need to build trust and believability by creating an image of authority. You know that you belong in the space, so your body language needs to show that you believe in it. This is done by claiming the space – walking in and standing confidently as though you own the area around you. Stand tall, feet apart, with natural body alignment. Your head should always be relaxed and open.

Plant yourself in one spot at a time. Don’t shuffle. Make eye contact with every member of the audience. Eyes are a powerful way to connect and communicate.

Tips for controlling nerves: Feeling nervous before a presentation is normal and can be good. It can increase your energy and focus. However, it can also be damaging. You need to learn to use your nerves positively. Try the following:

  • Before you present, picture yourself in the venue with an enthusiastic audience.
  • Speak the presentation out loud
  • Record or film it and review it
  • Speak slowly, with more breath and a little more loudly than usual, to project confidence
  • Adopt a power pose for two minutes before the presentation
  • Practice deep breathing.