I don’t think I’m saying any strikingly new when I suggest that confidence can come from two sources – inside and outside. I’m not suggesting their totally independent, of course: for example, dressing nicely and being complimented that you look good is an external thing, but it can have an effect in your internal confidence. But I am suggesting that there is a sub-set of confidence that comes purely from inside… from believing in yourself and believing in what you’re doing.
Taken too far, of course, it becomes dangerous hubris (Donald Trump, anyone?) but used sensibly I believe it’s the stronger form of confidence. Why is it stronger than external stuff? Well, precisely because external confidence supports are by definition vulnerable to external confidence unsupports. The person who says your presentation was good today could tell you it was awful when you give the same presentation tomorrow!
On the other hand, if your confidence comes from inside, it’s less vulnerable to that kind of thing. I often visualise confidence as the two different sources stacked on top of each other – with internal confidence underneath. That way, when all the external feedback you’re getting is that you’re awful (at whatever, not just presenting) and that part of the stack is down to zero, there’s still a core bit of confidence underneath.
With that in mind, it’s pretty obvious that we need to spend time boosting your internal confidence, not your external. Right? After all, if the blue bit in the figure to the left is bigger, two things will happen. The first is that your overall confidence is higher and, more importantly, when things go wrong and your confidence goes down, it doesn’t go down as far.
Well, here’s a few of the tools we’ve come across to do just that… in no particular order…
Understand the ‘why’. If you’re just doing your presentation (or anything else!) because you’re told to, or because it’s expected of you, the only way of supporting it is how well you did it. On the other hand if you’re know the ‘why’ and are absolutely, crystal clear about why you’re doing something – and it’s something you believe in – you can pull on the ‘moral certainty’ of doing the right thing to support you as you do things. If you’re making a presentation about a cause close to your heart it’s easier to push through any nerves.
Know exactly what you’re trying to achieve – and be realistic about it. If you’re trying to (for the sake of an example) raise funds for a charity, you might decide your presentation needs to do the following, in this order:
- get enough donation to cover its financial costs
- get enough donations to get a realistic return on your time in preparation and delivery
- get enough donations to make an X% contribution to the total costs of your charity’s project.
Obviously, your presentation is a success if it hits all three targets, but it’s also a success if it only just tops over the first or second points on that list too. Being blunt about it, you need to measure outcomes, not anything like the feel-good of how many people said they liked your delivery.
If you know what success looks like you have a better chance of hitting it. Otherwise you’re going to be judging ‘how well it went’ based upon, well, what?
Record the days when there are no disasters.
We’re evolutionarily designed to pay more attention to the bad than the good. We tend not to remember the good – and we certainly don’t remember times that were “okay”. All we remember are the dodgy gigs/meetings/sessions/presentations/events/whatever. So keep a record. If a day is ‘okay’, that’s a cause for celebration – or at least recording so when you do have the inevitable bad time you’ve got a record of the context. One bad day that you remember is a 100% failure record, but one bad day that you remember in the face of 99 days with evidence that they were ‘okay’ is a 1% failure… just a bit different, right?
Things will do wrong at some point. It’s inevitable. And you’ll feel like it’s the end of the world. People will hate your presentation or work out or not pay attention, or whatever… but here’s the trick. Ask yourself, in all honesty, if six months time will it still be the end of the world? In five years? Twenty? Pretty clearly it’s not the end of the world, then. So here’s the follow up question – what’s the one thing I can do now to make that time when it’s not the end of the world, just a little bit closer/sooner?
Sometimes the answer won’t be comfortable, but at least you’ll have made progress.