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How to Be Confident, Even When You're Not

Everyone has insecurities when doing something new. Here are three ways to build strength and be self-confident.

New challenges and opportunities can be exciting, but they can also test your self-esteem. Whether you are launching a new business, stepping into a bigger management role or even representing a new product, you likely lack the day-in-day-out experience that makes you knowledgeable and relaxed for that first big meeting or presentation.

A little nervous energy can make your delivery dynamic and productive. Too much and you will come off insecure, unsure, and amateurish. That's not a particularly good image to convey when trying to impress an audience or close a big deal. Some can fake it 'til they make it, but most people need to feel confident to convey confidence in a high-pressure situation.

You can find your confidence even in scenarios where you have little or no experience. Here are three techniques I combine to be confident in new situations.

1. Identify Three Points of Credibility

Confidence comes when you can comfortably be authoritative. If you lack credibility in your own mind, you'll convey weakness to others. People are desperately looking for experts and leaders, but are naturally skeptical in today's over-marketed world. It takes more than one or two references these days to assure a cynical buyer. Think of it this way: First time's a fluke, second time's a coincidence and third time's a trend. Find three known people or entities to support your expertise or point of view before you present and you'll feel like there is an entire army behind you. As an example, my three credibility points include being a For Dummies author, building an Inc. 500 company, and having authored four Amazon No. 1 best-selling books.

2.  Document Your Expertise

Chances are you didn't get this opportunity by accident. Everything you have done to this point has led to this moment. Now you need to share what's in your brain in a methodical and organized manner. So write it down. Make a list of the 10 insights you have about this situation. Just the act of organizing your thoughts into simple bullet points in a document will remind you of why you are the right person to make this happen. If you come up short on credible statements, take it as a signal to bone up and do a little more research. Your ability to quickly gain expertise in your new scenario will give you as much confidence as having all that information in your brain in the first place.

3. Rehearse the Role Required

Professionals make communication and presentation look easy. That's because there is a lot of rigorous rehearsal behind that performance. If the documentation is solid and well constructed (See No. 2) you can trust the material, and focus on how you present yourself and the information. Don't just leave your delivery to chance or improvisation. Take the time to think through your delivery and practice it several times out loud. Race car drivers mentally drive the track hundreds of times before actually racing live on the course. This allows them to deal with the unexpected without losing control or their confidence. If you are not well rehearsed, you'll be grasping for ideas. Better that everything important is natural and automatic so you can concentrate on your body language, and most importantly, the people in the room listening to your communication.

A little preparation can go a long way to make you feel secure even in the unknown. Build on the strengths you have so people can see you address the unfamiliar with positive energy and inner confidence.

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Last updated: May 10, 2013

KEVIN DAUM | Columnist

An Inc. 500 entrepreneur with a more than $1 billion sales and marketing track record, Kevin Daum is the best-selling author of Video Marketing for Dummies and the executive producer of Amilya! on 77WABC New York. Sign up here and never miss out on Kevin's thoughts and humor.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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