When we want to improve a skill like public speaking, we usually start looking for new behaviours or habits to adopt. At the beginning, it’s more useful to consider what to stop doing.
The secret to appearing confident is… to stop looking nervous. With a few tweaks, you can give the impression of confidence, even if you’re secretly a nervous wreck inside.
If you want to know how nervous someone is, look at their hands and feet. Ask a trusted friend to focus on your hands and feet during your next presentation. It’s very difficult for even experienced public speakers to spot their own mistakes, so find someone you trust to give you truthful and kind feedback.
Here are some common nervousness signals I see at conferences:
- Putting hands in pockets
- Putting hands in pockets and trying to grab onto something
- Putting hands in pockets and playing with keys
- Crossing arms
- Crossing arms, with hands slowly migrating to the armpits, trying to hold onto one’s own torso
- Holding onto hands or wrists very firmly
- Leaning backwards
- Hiding behind the lecturn
If you notice you’re displaying any of the above, it’s okay. The fact that you’ve noticed it is already 50% of the battle. Pick one item to correct, and try your best not to do it in the next presentation.