How to Sound Confident (Even if You're Not)
Even if you have great ideas, nobody will listen to them if you sound like a wimp when you open your mouth. By contrast, even mediocre ideas seem profound when spoken with confidence.
Fortunately, it's not difficult to sound confident if you follow these simple rules:
1. Imagine yourself as your audience's equal.
If you're speaking with a CEO, imagine yourself as a CEO. If you're speaking to engineers, imagine yourself as an engineer. Find and focus on the commonalities between yourself and your audience. If you're not a supplicant you won't sound like one.
2. Mentally rehearse each sentence.
You'll seem massively less confident if you trip over your own words or half-articulate a half-baked sentence. Before you speak, take a brief moment to imagine, in brief, what you're about say aloud. That pause makes you seem thoughtful and wise, BTW.
3. Speak from your chest not your throat or nose.
When people get nervous, their voices tend to move upwards so that the sound emerges from the throat or nose, which can make even deep wisdom sound like a whine. If you move your voice down into your chest, you'll sound (and feel) more confident.
4. Speak 20 percent slower than seems natural.
Many people also express nervousness by talking fast. (Hence the hoary archetype of the "fast-talking" salesperson.) People with real expertise tend to speak a bit slowly, as if they expect their listeners to hang on every word.
5. Eliminate your verbal ticks.
Some people use verbal ticks ("Uhhh....," "you know...," "I mean..., etc.) while thinking of what to say next. This makes you sound like you're unsure of yourself, so it's better simply to silently pause in midsentence. Record yourself and practice, if needed.
6. Never articulate a statement as a question.
A little uptick at the end of a sentence transforms even a definitive statement into a plea for approval. If you're confident, you make statements that reflect your knowledge and opinion. If you've got a question, you ask a question. No mixing the two.
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GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist
Geoffrey James was recently named a "Top 40 Social Selling Marketing Master" by Forbes, and his blog has won awards from the Society of American Business Editors and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. His writing has appeared in publications as diverse as Wired, Brandweek, and Men's Health, and he is the author of numerous books, including The Tao of Programming, Business Wisdom of the Electronic Elite, and, most recently, Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know.