I would like to share with you some key advice which really helped me before. The first time I heard this phrase, or at least actually took note of it, was a few hours before I gave a presentation. I was (as those of you who follow my blog will be familiar with) a little nervous, to say the least.
Public speaking is something that I am steadily becoming more confident with, but in this example I had been given the presentation a few hours earlier and I didn’t have enough time to practice the talk. For someone like me who likes to practice talks repeatedly before delivering them, this was an incredibly stressful prospect. I mentioned this to a friend and mentor and she uttered the words “Fake it until you make it!” What she meant was that no one else at the conference was aware that I wasn’t confident about giving the presentation, so I should simply act like I was. At the time, this really resonated with me.
I have previously blogged about presentations (http://biocareers.com/bio-careers-blog/do-you-dread-giving-presentations) and that being videoed, helped me realize things which improved my performance. The most important is that, considering that although you, as the speaker, may feel as if your heart will erupt from your chest, or that you need to run to the rest room, the audience looking at you is probably unaware of it. Likewise, if you have good body language – good posture, head up and looking at the audience, no fidgeting – they will assume that you are confident. Clearly I was being told that if I maintained my good body language, remained calm and simply gave my performance projecting confidence, no one would realize how little time I had to prepare.
I did exactly that, and I don’t think anyone realized how unprepared I felt when I gave that presentation. That was when I began to embrace this phrase as it applies in so many different situationssuch as, if you are invited to a new business meeting; you interact with a much senior individualor you try something for the first time. All of these can go more smoothly if you project an aura that you should be there. Obviously, you don’t want to go too far and appear too comfortable and potentially arrogant, but by paying attention that your body language is positive and open, you should be fine.
I watched a really interesting TED talk which was along similar lines. You can watch it by following this link: http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are.html . Amy Caddy takes this a little further. She believes that by using “power poses” (these are poses where you take up more space; therefore having your hands on your hips, standing with your feet further apart, sitting with your feet on a desk) you persuade your mind that you are feeling more confident. Therefore, in a situation where you need to project confidence standing or sitting in a “power pose” for a few minutes before will actually increase your appearance of being confident. If you practice these poses and deliberately change your behavior and body language, then it can have a beneficial impact on your life. You will actually look and feel more confident. Her phrase is “fake it until you become it”. She is an example of this sentiment and she has helped others by sharing this mantra. I decided to use it the last time I spoke publically.
Before I went into the auditorium I stood in a star shape for a few minutes, as if I had paused in the middle of a jumping jack. I felt a little silly at the time, but I did feel more confident as I stepped up to the microphone. Amy mentions the “winning” pose in her talk (arms stretched out and raised above your head) and I have noticed individuals making it during meetings. It is a very powerful pose, and before watching the talk I assumed that the people were simply stretching, however, now I notice it and wonder if they are trying to empower themselves. I now encourage students who come to me for presentation advice, to stretch a little before hand and the feedback is that it has worked. They feel calmer and more confident during their presentations and will now be using this technique at other times.
I hope that this will help some of you. No one knows if you are nervous or stressed a lot of the time unless you actually say so. Therefore throw your shoulders back, head up, make good eye contact, speak slowly, and fake it until you make it!