Discover more from The O’Daily by Kathryn O'Day
6 Ways To Project Confidence Without Trying
Last week, we talked about how to communicate confidently as a peer, especially in a 1-on-1 or small group setting.
All those people that seem so confident? On stage, in meetings, at events, or beyond?
They probably get nervous, need a pep talk, or struggle with insecurities too!
BUT — like all successful humans, they’re following the age-old wisdom my mom (and maybe yours too?) shared before my first job interview:
“Dress up, talk big, act smart.”
That’s how I got the job and you can too! Fake it ‘til you make it, baby!!!
(I’m only kind of joking: fake it ‘til you make it is a real strategy that the best leaders use.)
A lot of what is perceived as “confidence” can be learned and deliberately cultivated.
I took an amazing executive presence workshop from Speakeasy almost 10 years ago and I still use the lessons today.
If you have a few thousand dollars laying around, do the workshop! It was game-changing.
6 Ways To Project Confidence Without Trying** (**very much)
1. Stand Up Straight
I sound like your mom. BECAUSE SHE WAS RIGHT.
No one can see the thoughts in your brain. But they can see how you carry yourself.
Sit up straight in meetings, stand tall when you’re meeting people.
It’s not fair but there’s a bias towards tall people in business.
Good posture (and Zoom) close the gap!
Plus, standing up straight projects energy, makes it easier to speak clearly, and is good for core strength.
Boom! Snuck in a healthy habit. 😉
2. No Fidgeting
Guilty as charged. 🙋♀️
I bite my nails, twist in my chair, play with my hair, tap my foot, compulsively sip on tea, click my pen…allllll the things.
But if I am on stage or in an important meeting, I am still.
Movement makes you seem nervous.
Don’t believe me?
Record yourself sitting in a chair tapping your foot or flipping your hair. Say your company’s elevator pitch while doing it.
Same thing but sit still (with good posture!).
Which self appears more calm and confident?
3. Keep Your Arms Open
This one feels SO AWKWARD but it projects tons of confidence when you see it on someone else.
I didn’t believe it until I saw a video recording of myself. Crossing arms looks afraid or small. Open arms exudes that confident boss energy!
When you sit at a conference table, don’t cross your arms on your chest or fold your hands in front of you.
Keep your arms open, forearms on the table, like you’re at a dinner party with a plate in front of you.
If you’ve ever taken professional headshots, they’ll say to put your hand in your pocket with a thumb out. The dumbest pose ever…THAT LOOKS AMAZING IN A PHOTO.
Same thing here.
Keep your arms open when on stage, talking at a party, or sitting in a chair.
Here’s an example from a fireside chat I moderated. I was nervous but good posture and open arms read as “relaxed.”
4. Hair Off Your Face
Especially if you’re going to be on stage, make sure your hair is pulled back in some way! (See photo above^^)
You don’t want your face shadowed or have it look like you’re hiding behind your hair.
Plus the audience is probably going to be at different angles around you, not only directly in front of you.
You want them to be able to see your face, expression, and mouth clearly.
I didn’t believe it until I saw it on video and then I started to notice it everywhere.
Look at the difference between Hair-Off-The-Face Adam Neumann and Flowy-Locks Adam Neumann.
Okay, he looks kind of a mess in both photos but the wild(er) hair is distracting. Get that man some product and a pony tail holder!
5. Dress For Success
Dress in a way that makes you feel awesome. Think: comfortable, powerful, appropriate.
(I realize the irony of this with Adam Nuemann in a rainbow t-shirt right above. But look what happened to WeWork. Too many t-shirts!)
What you wear is another non-verbal way to project confidence and professionalism.
You can do this by wearing clothes that are appropriate for the setting and fit well. No fidgeting (#2) also applies to tugging on a skirt or fiddling with a watch or button!
If budget is tight, it’s hard to go wrong with a classic item like a black dress, white blouse and black pants, or button down and chinos.
Better to have 1 or 2 nice outfits worn over and over than let your clothes be a distraction or detractor. As long as the clothes are reasonable, no one will notice or care.
Personally, I’m not much of a fashionista (LOL, obvious if you know me) so I tend to follow a “minimum-viable-outfit” methodology. I’ve also gotten more casual over time.
When I was younger in my career, I dressed up more and followed principles like:
“Dress for the job you want not the job you have.”
“Dress up one degree more than the customer.”
”Dress professionally so you’ll be taken seriously.”
When I was in my 20s working with older execs, I selected outfits carefully.
Now that I’m a grizzled old tech veteran, I’m mostly jeans and sneakers.
Partly to show that I’m still cool (is it working?? 🤓) and partly because my knees are old and can’t handle heels (retracting that “still cool” statement…).
Don’t know what to wear?
Hire my stylist friend Liz (send me a note and I’ll connect you - she helped me dress after a pandemic + 2 babies), check out Fashivly, or wear a black turtleneck a la Steve Jobs and Elizabeth Holmes.
Seriously though, I dig “uniforms” and know many founders who have one.
If you’re into fashion, it’s a great tool for being memorable and making a statement. Leverage it!
I know a sales rep who deliberately wears colorful, eye-catching outfits at conferences (“Oh, you mean the woman in the bright blue dress?”) and founders who dress to match their brand colors.
6. Slow Down
Smart people talk fast. So do nervous people. So do people who haven’t planned well and are rushing.
Talking slowly — again, somewhat counterintuitively — increases the perception of how confident you are.
At the very least, people are better able to understand and digest what you’re saying.
It also forces you to chose words carefully.
Have a timed pitch or short meeting window?
It’s 10x better to say less slowly, than to rush but “get it all in.”
Show Up As Your Best Self
Confidence is contagious. It’s a key ingredient to building a successful business.
You don’t need to feel confident every moment of the day (or even often) to be seen as a strong, capable leader.
Confidence — or the perception of it — can be cultivated.
Use these tips to project confidence even when you’re doing something new or feeling insecure!
Put your best foot forward and let the focus be where it belongs — on your vision and business. 🚀
What is your best tip for projecting confidence? Have you used one of these before? How did it work?