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The Magic of Self-Confidence and Successful Presentations

BY MARK W. HARDWICK, PhD.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.” - Eleanor Roosevelt

The secret to successful and effective speaking is self-confidence. It impacts our speaking performance in subtle and powerful ways.

What Is Self-Confidence?

Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence saysself-confidence is a strong sense of one’s self-worth and capabilities.  Self-confidence in any arena of life is a reality-based feeling or attitude that you can meet and fulfill the expectations and challenges presented.  Self-confidence seems to be rooted in competence, adequacy and positive life experiences.  The self-confident person has a sense of personal control and inner direction.  They have a strong belief in their abilities and few self-doubts or fears.  The confident person believes in their ability to change, learn, and grow.
They are open to new ideas, observant of surroundings, aware of weaknesses, and assertive in conflict.  They project assurance (thoughtfulness and decisive behaviors) and empathy for others.

What it is not?

Self-confidence is not arrogance, cockiness, defensiveness, pretenses, or denials.  It is not an over-the-top "I am always right" attitude.  It is not condescension toward others.  It can appear as unrealistic grandiosity if reality and the current situation are ignored.

How anxiety impacts speaking performance?

Too much anxiety creates the cycle of self-doubt.  Some of the interferences are going blank, shaky voice, talking too fast, darting and wandering eyes, and above all else poor performance. 

Many of us are aware that we are own worst enemy and that we have a tendency to get in our own way when speaking.  How does this phenomenon work?  It works as any human action works through the natural triangle of perception, response and results.  Take for example, the action of catching a baseball.  The player sees the image of a ball coming toward him, then responds by moving his body and glove into position and then catches or doesn’t catch the ball producing the results of the action.  This chain reaction of events can be either a positive or negative self-fulfilling prophecy (SFP).  The SFP is started by a false belief (I can/can’t catch a ball) and becomes fulfilled by action that supports that original belief.

The first advice I give to people who want to improve their presentation skills is, "Don't fight the feeling of being nervous!" Feeling nervous is a normal course of events with any type of performance activity.  If a situation is seen as a threat, our unconscious mind goes to work pumping adrenaline into our brain., telling us to fight or take flight.  Nearly every speaker, including the professionals, has that feeling before getting up in front of an audience.

The difference is that extraordinary speakers give that feeling a different name: they see it as excitement. It’s the positive energy that helps get them going. It's a feeling that lets you know that you're about to do something exciting and the outcome is important to you.

So the next time you feel nervous before a speech or presentation, welcome that feeling and say to yourself, "thank you for the reminder . . . I'm glad I'm feeling this way!" When you don't have that feeling, your speech is likely to be flat and you’ll have to work much harder to deliver an engaging presentation.