Dress For The Occasion:
The first is important because if you don’t feel comfortable it will prey on your mind and you’ll start thinking about your tight blouse or baggy trousers when you need to concentrate on what’s happening in the room. If you need help here then you are in the right place – get on Dara’s mailing list quick!
Warm Up Your Voice:
The second is important because your voice determines how much authority you have. It doesn’t matter how senior you are, if you speak quickly at a high pitch, you’ll struggle to have authority. Your mouth, lips and tongue are all muscles and just as you wouldn’t expect to come off a running track uninjured if you didn’t stretch before a race, so you need to stretch your mouth muscles before you speak. That will give you better diction and clarity, better tone and more gravitas.
Change Your Physicality:
This is all to do with your body language and posture. There was a time when we believed that you had a thought and that determined your physical reaction … “I’m scared therefore my stomach is churning and my palms are sweaty”. Now we know that the reaction comes first … “my stomach is churning therefore I’m scared”. Or could it be … “my stomach is churning therefore I’m excited”? The physical feeling is the same, what you label it is different.
So, knowing this, there are a number of things you can do to change your physicality to change your mind, both before and during your important meeting.
The first comes from Amy Cuddy a Social Psychologist and Professor at Harvard University and her work to identify what happens to your body when you take a Power Pose (E.G., standing like Wonder Woman).
“A confident person — knowing and believing in her identity — carries tools, not weapons.” Amy Cuddy
According to her research if you stand in a power pose for at least 2 minutes you will see an increase in the Testosterone and a decrease in the Cortisol in your body. Testosterone (amongst other things) increases your likelihood of taking more risks and be more “gung-ho” about what you are doing while Cortisol is the primary stress hormone and prepares you for fight or flight! So, imagine you are about to go out on stage to do an important presentation … do you want chemicals flowing through your body which will make you feel more or less risk averse.
Right! That’ll be less … and the Wonder Woman pose will start that process. And as you have no barriers, the pose is also telling your brain that you aren’t under attack and you’re confident. In unscientific terminology your brain will then assume you aren’t in danger … diminishing your nerves, and you can name the feelings as excitement rather than fear. If you’d like to see Amy Cuddy talking about this, then I highly recommend that you watch her TED talk.
Having said all of this, you don’t want to be standing like Wonder Woman as you come to a stop at the front of the room facing your audience. They’ll wonder what you’re doing and it’ll do nothing for your confidence. The Wonder Woman pose is definitely something you want to do in the privacy of your office or a toilet cubicle.
In the room, you do want to have great posture but you don’t want to be power posing. As you step up to speak you want your posture to tell the room that you’re in control, have authority and lack nerves. Your great fitting clothes will do part of the job but not if you are stooped, have your arms crossed and head down.
So how do you change your posture to create a more positive image. You think of three things.
- Tripods on your feet.
Imagine that you have a small tripod attached to the bottom of each foot. One point at your little toe, one at your big toe and one on your heel. Make sure that you keep your weight evenly distributed on all three points, on both feet. This will stop you fidgeting, rocking or pacing without purpose. Even if you are sitting this will help you to feel more grounded and focussed.
Imagine that there is a piece of string running through from the floor, up your spine and out of the middle of the top of your head. If you are standing it will run between your legs up through your spine and if you are sitting it will be under your seat running up. Either way once it is above your head, imagine that someone taller than you is pulling the string so your spine straightens and your head lifts slightly. (Not from the front of your head so your chin lifts, but from the middle of your head so your whole head rises). Look at yourself in the mirror doing this and you may see yourself growing several inches.
- Bolero jacket.
Finally, imagine you’re wearing a Bolero Jacket (like a Matador might wear), short and ending at your waist. Now imagine someone comes from behind and gives your jacket a pull at the bottom so that your shoulders come back very slightly. This will open your airways as well as helping you to look more alert.
With these 3 images in mind, whether you are sitting or standing you will look more alert, confident and in control.
Looking and sounding the part will always help you to feel more confident and neuroscience is showing us that as you change your physicality so you will help to change your mind. Or put another way … by making sure that your posture is right you can help control your nerves.
About Sally Hindmarch
Sally is a communications trainer, mentor, speaker and author. Her book “Step Out From the Shadows” is an amalgamation of everything she has learnt during her career and whilst working with a team of professional actors at Partners With You. An ongoing interest in the field of Neuroscience to better understand what is actually going on in our brains and how we can change our behaviour and reactions is a key influencer in Sally’s approach.
Sally has developed a range of services that allow you to understand your communication style and address the key areas that concern people most about communicating at work. For more free tips you click here to learn 5 tips that will boost your communication confidence.