Did you know that expressed self-confidence is a strong predictor of success? Alongside other traits such as commitment and perseverance, confidence stands out as a key indicator of triumph in one’s personal and career success.
Confident speakers and leaders do not spend precious time thinking or worrying about what others think of them. Instead, as successful communicators, they focus on being fully present and connected to their message and their audience.
In an observational study conducted amongst entrepreneurs pitching to potential investors, it transpired that the content of the pitch was not the deciding factor for the way investors responded. Instead, investment decisions were determined based on the presenters’ confidence, comfort level and passionate enthusiasm. In other words, the presenters who succeeded were the ones who were fully present.
The qualities of confidence, comfort and passion indicated something powerful about the entrepreneur’s investment worthiness. Their level of presence signalled how much they truly believed in their ability to bring the idea to fruition, which in turn may have given an indication about the quality of the proposition itself.
But are we inflating the value of this personal trait? Is projecting enthusiastic self-confidence simply a superficial preference? It turns out that it isn’t. Research suggest that passionate self-confidence counts for a lot. It predicts which entrepreneurs get funding from investors and which candidates fare best at job interviews. Evaluations of investment and hiring decisions suggest that self-assuredness is an impressively useful indicator of success. In studies conducted amongst entrepreneurs, this quality predicts drive, initiative, persistence, creativity and ability to identify good novel ideas.
Remarkably, there’s even more to it. Entrepreneurs who project high level of self-confidence are perceived to be better communicators. Also, their projected self-assuredness stimulates the performance of others who work with them. People put their faith in others who display confidence, passion and enthusiasm.
In surveys that I conduct with participants prior to them embarking on training programmes on presentation skills and public speaking with me, I ask them some questions related to what it is that they mostly wish to get out of the programme. Interestingly, the one thing that keeps coming up over and over again is building self-confidence. In public speaking classes, I often notice how participants struggle with self-confidence. I consider confidence as a crucial foundational element for communication effectiveness. It is critical both for one’s sense of self-worth and also for the audience’s experience of you as a person worth paying attention to.
In order for your audience to experience confidence from you, you need to first feel a sense of confidence within yourself. Confidence is an expression of two key elements: ‘competence’ coupled with ‘conviction’. When you know what you’re talking about – competence, and you express your ideas with passion and enthusiasm – conviction, then your audience perceives you as confident. This experience of confidence is essential to your ability to make an impact when presenting or pitching an idea.
Competence is the ability to successfully serve with your expertise. There are two parts to competence worth looking at here: there is subject area competence – your actual expertise; and there is expressed competence – your ability to be an engaging speaker. Confidence is expressed externally through vocal qualities, gestures, facial expression, movement and ownership of space. When we feel confident, passionate and enthusiastic we express variety in our vocal dynamics, making us sound more expressive and relaxed. On the contrary, when our confidence takes a dive because we are anxious or fearful, our vocal cords contract, crushing our enthusiasm.
The other half is conviction, the belief that the problem you are solving matters enough to take action to resolve it. It’s that fire-in-the–belly desire to make a difference through your message and stories. When you are connected with the impact of your message, expressing with conviction comes more naturally. A strong connection with why this message matters to you is the fastest path to your strongest conviction.
Since confidence is crucial to your success, it’s important to know where you stand in your own sense of confidence when preparing to pitch an idea. Ask yourself, ‘Do I have the level of competence I need in terms of my expertise? Do I know how to visually and vocally express self-confidence? Am I truly connected to my message and convinced of my idea?’ If you have three yeses, then you’re good to go!
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