Mastering Fear and Presenting With Confidence

Acting like someone you’re not in order to fake confidence works on TV, but not when presenting.  Not being your true self while presenting may lead to audience disengagement, distrust, mixed messages and reduced – what I like to call – ‘likeability.’

Courageously being your true self – rather than hiding it out of fear – leads to confidence, ‘related-ness’ and likeability.  Remember, you are a human being speaking to other human beings.

The challenge is taming that nasty inner fear monster which likes to play fear-enabling mind games.

Fear is natural and normal.  But our fear monster is masterful at working in collaboration with our thinking brain to make up stories like “I will fail!”, “They may not like me!” and “I am going to forget my words!” – all of which result in an erosion of self-confidence.  

Let’s face it, you will be judged when presenting; that is a fact.  Humans judge everything and with all eyes on us, our sensitive and protective personal security system is on red alert defending the potential of judgement. This creates a roller coaster of emotions and associated physiological sensations such as dry mouth, sweaty arm pits, a stuttering voice or a need to fidget — basically, stress.

Self-confidence means you are masterful and have nothing to prove.  Being your natural self has gotten you this far, why not embrace it?

Below are some ways to keep you real so that fear is acknowledged and mastered, and actions are grounded in confidence.

  1. Have fun: If you are having a good time, so will your audience. Life is too serious. Enjoy yourself!
  2. Breathe: Take moments of silence and do a five second inhale, five second exhale. The side effect of breathing is less tension and a reduction of nervous tendencies.
  3. Make mistakes: What is it like listening to a perfect talking head? Present from your heart, passion, expertise and purpose. This enables emotional connection and actually fewer mistakes – your heart won’t miss a beat.
  4. Know your triggers: Evaluate your presentation triggers such as ‘They are not paying attention!’. Work through the reasons why they upset you and reframe the trigger so that it no longer has an impact on your confidence.  Sure, maybe some people are on their smartphone, but you have many others engaged in what you have to say.
  5. Know that self-doubt is normal: Thankfully our brain has doubts.  If not, imagine the silly things you may have done that could have had disastrous effects.  Self doubt keeps us safe. Acknowledge the doubt and move on.
  6. Blah, blah, blah: Don’t think so much about stumbling.  Speed bumps help slow us down.  The odd “Blah, um, etc.” only confirms you are real and that you may be veering away from your true self.
  7. Embrace your ESL: As an ESL myself, when watching an English Comedy, I need to really focus my listening as the accent throws me off – the consequence is I become more focused.  Perfect English is not important.  It’s who you are and what you believe in that inspires confidence.

At the end of the presentation, know you had the courage to make a difference to those in front of you. Leave the bundle of perceived judgements and that fear monster behind the door where they belong.

Acknowledge your fear and courageously be you!

Kwela’s Presenting Like a Pro and Authentic Communication workshops offer many other tips and a framework to master the nerves and present with confidence and persuasion.

Glen Sollors, Partner