Presentation: Don’t just look confident – be confident

I was watching Superman – the Christopher Reeve version – with my six year old son. In one scene Clark Kent was in Lois Lane’s apartment waiting for her to get ready to go out for dinner. As he stood in her living room waiting for her he contemplated telling her his true identity.

As he imagined what that conversation might be like he took off his glasses, pulled his shoulders back and stood straight and tall. Without saying a word he had transformed into Superman. But then he thinks better of it and decides that telling Lois his secret is not the wisest course of action. And so before she enters the room he puts his glasses back on, slumps his shoulders down and slouches and once again he is Clark Kent.

When persuading a group of decision makers that you have the right solution for their needs it is critical to convey confidence. Business people considering a major purchase or new initiative will be attracted to your confidence. Your certainty will raise their comfort level.

Communicating this kind of confidence requires a certain body posture. As you would expect; head up (while making eye contact) shoulders back and back straight and tall. I once saw it taught this way; take up as much space as you can with your body. Or, put another way make yourself as large as you can.

But body posture will not only communicate confidence it also creates confidence. Harvard Business School sites research that shows assuming an assertive body posture (referred to as a “power pose”) will increase testosterone by 20% and as a result will increase our confidence and assertiveness. At the same time a confident body posture will decrease the anxiety producing hormone called cortisol by 25%.

Interestingly, we can have the exact opposite effect on our hormones by adopting a weak or timid posture. Which is exactly what most people do when delivering a presentation. The natural reaction to the adrenaline rush that comes from standing up in front of a group makes us want to wrap ourselves up by crossing our arms, crossing our legs at the ankles, putting our hands in our pockets, standing sideways or looking down and avoiding eye contact. All of these body postures not only communicate a lack of confidence but will release the chemicals within the body that actually increase stress and anxiety.

What all this means is that by using a confident body posture we will not only communicate confidence to our audience but more importantly we will communicate confidence to ourselves.

So when practicing for your next presentation be aware of your posture. Stand tall, make yourself as big as you can and don’t be Clark Kent.


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