Did you know that, when it comes to presentations, 93% of communication is not done with words? The 7.38.55 rule states that impact on your audience when giving a presentation is 7% what you say, 38% the tone in which you say it and 55% how you look when you say it. With these statistics in mind, confidence in your tone, mannerisms and interaction is vital if you are going to deliver a presentation successfully.
So how can you project confidence when presenting? Here are three ways that can help:
1. PERFECT YOUR PACE
When adrenaline and nerves kick in pre-presentation, the temptation is to channel this energy into an enthusiastic delivery that excites your audience. While you of course want your presentation to be interesting, many make the mistake of speaking too quickly on account of their nerves and give the impression of franticness as opposed to cool, collected confidence.
This is where pace comes in. Comparing delivering a presentation to singing, Harvard Business Review (HBR) points out that ‘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, specifically, pace.’
HBR points to insights from audiobook recordings which found that ‘the ideal pace for an audiobook is a little slower than casual face-to-face conversation, because listeners don’t have the added sensory inputs of watching your mouth move and facial expressions. This is about 150 words a minute.’ Using this as a guideline, HBR suggests that ‘speaking too fast will harm your credibility’ and so when making a presentation it is worthwhile adopting a slightly slower pace than you might for general conversation. Although it is true that your presentation is likely to be face-to-face and therefore allows for some engagement, being careful not to rush is crucial to adopting a steady pace that projects confidence and professionalism.
2. CHECK YOUR BODY LANGUAGE
With so much of communication taking place at the non-verbal level, a key indicator of your confidence is your body language and the mannerisms you employ to engage your audience.
According to a do’s and don’ts article by Silicon Republic, in order to project confidence a speaker should adopt an open, wide stance with feet placed in line with your hips and shoulders. This is because ‘body language experts suggest that confident people have two feet planted firmly on the ground, which balances them physically and exudes confidence.’ This kind of body language staging should be practiced and planned in advance of a big presentation until it becomes a natural part of your presentation habits.
Yet striking the right balance is also important. These small tricks should be subtle and subconscious, and shouldn’t seem as though you are trying to project confidence. This is exactly the mistake that British politician Sajid David made when he adopted the wide-legged stance recently while posing for a photograph. The stance quickly made newspaper headlines, with Dr Connson Locke, a leadership and organisational behaviour lecturer at LSE, observing that the stance ‘doesn’t mean standing with your feet so out of place that you look unnatural.’ Striking a happy medium is the key here.
3. DON’T WASTE WORDS
Although a large part of communication is non-verbal, there are a number of delivery habits that undermine the appearance of confidence you have worked so hard to build.
One of the most obvious examples of these are filler words like “um” and “uh” that often slip into speech when under pressure or transitioning from one point to the next. For Business.com, ‘filler words […] threaten your credibility and the audience’s attention’ and so it is essential to practice eliminating these from your presentation if you are going to appear confident. Business.com suggests ‘remov[ing] excess words that may tempt your use of filler words’ and that ‘the best way to prevent using nonwords [like um] is to practice removing them from everyday use.’
Likewise, HBR suggests that in order not to waste words you should aim for short, simple words to fill your presentation. HBR points out that ‘long, convoluted sentences and jargon don’t make you sound smart at all — just the opposite,’ and in fact ‘you gain credibility and respect when you’re able to articulate complex ideas in simple language.’ Ensuring therefore that your delivery is to the point, concise and direct is an important element of projecting confidence when giving an important presentation.
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