Before you read this blog on confidence hacks for the busy professional, I need to post two disclaimers:
Disclaimer #1: There are no shortcuts to confidence.
It is crucial that you know that before reading this video. Confidence is not built overnight, and confidence is not something you can step into or a choice you can make at the moment. A few weeks ago, I recorded a video on this topic. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly encourage you to do so before you keep reading.
While there are no shortcuts to confidence, there are hacks to remind yourself of the confidence you already have. For example, whenever we are in a high-stakes speaking situation, our body goes into fight, flight, or freeze mode. Suppose you don’t have a sound system for preparing for that emotional and physical hijacking. In that case, you may be stuck in that zone and become a significantly less effective communicator than you might have been during your preparation.
Again, this is natural. There is a great educational video by Ted Education that explains exactly why our body goes into this state, especially before a big speaking situation. And there are habits to develop from taking back your power and presenting with the confidence you already have.
Disclaimer #2: You are going to look and feel silly.
That’s just the reality of these hacks. And one of my mantras in communication is: “The more uncomfortable it feels, the better it looks.”
So if you are willing to do the long-term work to build confidence AND you are ready to look and feel a bit silly, then, by all means, use these hacks to your advantage.
HACK ONE: Safe and Smiling
Your body is nervous about your upcoming talk because it recognizes that it significantly impacts your future. It feels like it is in danger. And that’s good! It tells us that whatever we are doing means something.
But the body is not in charge; you are. Simply saying the words “I am safe” and doing that with a smile on your face will calm your body. No one smiles and says, “I am safe” if they are in danger. Despite your body’s adrenaline and anxiety, it will naturally calm down when it hears you and feels you saying this.
HACK TWO: Power Poses
If you haven’t seen Amy Cuddy’s (who is my hero, and I will meet her one day and tell her what a profound impact she has had on my life, but that may be another blog post for another day) now famous Ted Talk entitled: “Your Body Langauge May Shape Who You Are” then shame on you and go do that now.
The first fifteen minutes are highly informative and data-driven, but watch out – she brings in a personal story that will knock you on your feet.
And her hack is straightforward. If you stand powerfully, your body will respond accordingly.
Every time I give a speech, I excuse myself about thirty minutes before I talk to use the bathroom. Then, I go to an empty stall and stand in each power pose for at least two minutes. Do I feel silly standing in a stall looking like Wonder Woman? Yes.
Do I feel better afterward? 100%.
This hack is free, semi-private, takes minimal time, and makes a difference.
HACK THREE: Pencil Mouth
This is my favorite hack of all time.
Take a pencil, preferably one that is either brand new or sanitized. Place the pencil in your mouth horizontally and push it as far back as you can without causing damage to your lips or teeth.
Then start talking.
You are unintelligible if you don’t over-enunciate and overdo your facial expressions.
You will get two key benefits if you talk like this for two minutes (even if you are talking to yourself).
Benefit 1: You will automatically enunciate your words.
Benefit 2: Placing the pencil in your mouth will cause everything you say to be said with a slight smile. Smiles remind your body that you are not in danger.
Benefit 3: When you overdo your facial expressions, every muscle in your face is warmed up, and you will naturally be more expressive with your eyes and mouth.
A bit silly? Yes.
A big gross? Kind of.
A bit effective? More than a bit.
Try it out. If you want to see an example, check out my Youtube Video where I model this.
HACK FOUR: The Invisible Coach
I have a hard time standing still and slowing down when I speak. I am well aware of this drawback and used to wish I could have my speaking coach stand with me and whisper: “Psst…hey…Erik…slow down. Oh and also…stay still. By the way you are doing great!”
Event planners seemed to frown at me when I requested this, so I found another way to accomplish these reminders. There are two strategies:
Strategy #1: Wear Something Odd
This doesn’t mean speaking in a duck costume or Superhero gear (although, if you do, that’s awesome!). Instead, wearing something odd means that it is something that you don’t usually wear.
For example, I always wear a watch when I speak. However, I find them annoying, and they feel very odd on my wrist. It feels uncomfortable despite the slight benefit of wearing a watch (I can keep time while I speak).
The watch might not be your trick. It may be a ring you wear on a different finger, or you wear earrings when you usually don’t, or you have a bracelet that you only wear on special occasions. Anything that will slightly disrupt your comfort will work.
Strategy #2: Tissue Issues
You can get the same result by taking a few tissues and placing them inside of your shoe. Again, this should not be painful or overly disruptive to your comfort. It should simply be a feeling that doesn’t happen very often. The bonus to this strategy is that no one knows you are hacking your confidence.
The key with either strategy is taking that slight discomfort and using it as your coach. Every time you feel your watch, your ring, or the tissue in your shoe, you are training yourself to send a signal to your brain that says: “Psst…hey…[INSERT YOUR NAME HERE]…slow down. Oh, and also…stay still. By the way, you are doing great!”
Effective? Try and let me know.
But I promise you that it is!
HACK #5: Acupressure Rings
Has the stress of a high-stakes speaking situation made you want to shout or scream? Has the intensity been so much that you want to run away? Then this hack is for you.
I first learned about Acupressure Rings when I started therapy a few years ago. My therapist had all sorts of gadgets that I assumed were for kids. Then, during one particular session, when I was very nervous and anxious about something and had difficulty focusing and staying present, she offered them to me.
It turns out these were not just for kids.
The tool she gave me were these small rings that put a unique pressure on you. When you pinch them, they *almost* hurt. They are not dangerous or painful, but just enough for your mind and energy to go to that spot.
You are releasing nervous energy by wearing these rings.
Do they look a bit odd to wear? Maybe.
I wore them the first time I performed in the USA Today/Des Moines Storytellers Project. This was a sold-out crowd of 1,200+ people so…yea…I was nervous. Did anyone notice? Maybe. Did it impact my performance? Very much so…in the positive. It is one of the performances I am most proud of.
There is a misnomer that just because I am a professional public speaker, I don’t get nervous. I get nervous all of the time. But I embrace it and use it.
I also disrupt the nerves and thoughts that don’t serve me with these hacks every time I speak. They are a meager cost, take almost no time, and re-ground me on my primary intention: to serve my audience.
Test any of these hacks and let me know how they work for you. Of course, you may feel a bit silly. And you may only be hacking into the confidence you already have. But they are worth trying to see how powerful of a speaker you are.
For all this and more, check out my video covering confidence hacks for the busy professional here.