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Improve Your Presentation Confidence

When I started presenting several years ago, my lack of presentation confidence was one of the biggest barriers I had to overcome. Even after I had delivered many presentations, I still didn't feel I was a good presenter. And because I didn't feel I was a good enough presenter, how could I ever improve my presentation confidence? It was a vicious circle.

I read several books on the subject and tried different presentation techniques, but somehow I couldn't get the sparkle or enthusiasm into my presentations that I had seen other - more confident - presenters deliver.

By chance one day, I was discussing this with a colleague whom I had seen presenting on several occasions and I knew was a very good and confident presenter. When presenting, he would come into the room, roll up his sleeves and deliver a presentation full of passion and conviction. He looked confident and self-assured, and that confidence reflected in his presentations. He has long since retired, but what he said that day has stayed with me, and I've since discovered it is one of the most important truisms in improving not only presentation confidence, but confidence in general.

"Ian", he said "if you want to improve your presentation confidence, you've got to look and act like a confident presenter". All very well I thought, but how could I look and act like a confident presenter until I felt like one? Again it was that vicious circle.

He went on to point out that, yes it is a circle, the trouble with me was that I was in the negative version of it. "Personal actions", he said "trigger personal feelings, just as much as personal feelings trigger personal actions." Because I didn't feel like a confident presenter, I didn't behave like one. Or to put it another way, how you feel about a situation affects how you behave, and conversely how you behave in a situation affects how you feel about it.

 This is best visualized in the diagram below.

Diagram for Presentation Confidence

The actions/feeling closed loop

When personal feelings are lacking, there is no better way to strengthen them than to behave as if they were present. Let your actions be the driving force for your feelings. So, for example, the best way not to feel nervous is to behave as if you're not nervous. The best way to be happy is to act like a happy person. And the best way to be a confident, self-motivated presenter is to behave like one.

This may all sound a bit like double-speak, but I've since discovered that this principle of self-change and self-motivation is at the heart of positive thinking. Everyone is either in a positive or negative version of this closed loop. Because my presentation confidence was lacking, I was in a negative version of this loop, which showed in my presentations. To change to more positive thinking, our best entry point is at the action stage where you can act how you want to be perceived, and let your feelings follow.


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