Looking Confident – Even When You’re Not

Looking Confident – Even When You’re Not 150 150 Laura Sicola


Over the last several posts, I’ve been sharing strategies on delivering a great performance in front of the camera – and by extension, when in front of a live audience even without a camera. If you haven’t seen them yet, here’s the link to my series of video shorts, “Capturing Your Confidence on Camera.”

This time, I want to share a couple of other great resources for delivering a confident, compelling, engaging performance, as both demonstrated and explained in two of my favorite TED Talks.

The first is more likely to appeal to the part of your brain that likes to read inspiring self-help psychology related books that explain why you do what you do and how to control your own destiny.

It’s your friendly neighborhood Harvard psychologist, Dr. Amy Cuddy, in her TED talk, “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.”

This video had two big take-aways. First are the very-real effects that your posture has on your hormonal balance, which subsequently can influence your psyche and sense of self-efficacy and confidence. If you knew that taking two minutes to yourself to hold a certain pose before giving a presentation or speaking on camera could change the quality of your delivery, you’d do it, wouldn’t you?

Second, her story of needing to project confidence at a time when she didn’t feel it, suffering from what some might call “the imposter syndrome,” (long before she was “THE” Amy Cuddy,) is something everyone can relate to. The way she managed to perform despite that fear, until she had beaten it, is inspiring..

It’s also humbling. After realizing everything she was up against – including severe cognitive damage from a car accident – you have to admit: if she can overcome that, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to overcome your fears too, and learn to speak with true confidence.

In contrast, the second video will appeal to the other side of your brain. The part that doesn’t want to have think too hard. Actually, it kind of reminds me of a Seinfeld episode. Why? Because it’s a whole talk about nothing.

It’s a talk about what academics might call “meta-strategies”… but we won’t call it that, because that sort of sucks all the fun out of it, which shouldn’t be allowed to happen after a perfectly good Seinfeld nod.

In “How to sound smart in your TEDx Talk,” Will Stephen steals the show at TEDxNewYork. He paces the stage and talks as if giving a real talk on some specific topic, all the while really just pointing out all the of his own little gestures, mannerisms, and vocal modulations as he does them, explaining why they make his talk engaging… or at least why they would if his talk actually had a more specific point.

It’s six minutes you’ll need to watch twice. The first time you’ll follow along with each point nodding, smiling, and thinking “oh my gosh, that’s so true!” Then at the end, you’ll realize, “oh my gosh, that IS true… wait a minute, I need to look at that again…”

As he uses each little gesture, and explains its value and its likely effect on you right at that moment, take note. The strategies are so simple, but each one engages, endears, and compels. His talk is entertaining and semi-facetious, but every one of his points is relevant, and easily applicable in any presentation preparation and delivery.

Ultimately, just remember that in any situation, you have control over much more than you realize, including how confident you feel, and how confident you look. Strike your pose. Emulate the characteristics you wish you had (i.e. “fake it ‘til you make it”.) Consider the little gestures and vocal cues that connect with the audience in different ways, and deliver them like you mean it.

Once you put it all together, the confidence will flow outward, and when you see how the audience responds to it, you’ll feed off that response and the confidence will become genuine. And there’s no better feeling than that!