Anyone who’s ever been to a meeting, presentation, networking event, or social affair can tell you: confidence is key. Not only that, but confidence is obvious—and so is a lack of confidence. You can simply tell when someone is feeling comfortable in their environment, and when they’re not.
Of course, some people are more naturally confident than others. Some people are in their element in a crowd—voicing their opinions, telling jokes, and generally keeping everyone engaged and entertained. And then there are others who would honestly rather get a root canal than draw attention to themselves in any way.
But no matter which camp you fall into, the fact is: there will be times when you’re on stage. While I’m going to focus primarily on business meetings in this post, you could also think of this in terms of a community meeting, church gathering, or even a party or group date. Whatever situation you find yourself in, you’ll feel much better about the whole thing if you’re able to go into it with confidence.
Why confidence in a meeting is important
Many people consider there to be a fine line between “confident” and “cocky.” And they’re not wrong. While most of us can think of an example of someone who’s confident in meetings, we can also probably think of an example of someone who is cocky. And at the other end of the spectrum, we can likely think of someone who is a bit of a wallflower in meetings, and says very little (if they say anything at all).
Here’s the key question, then: which of these types is most likely to be effective in meetings?
Certainly not the wallflower, who doesn’t say enough to even let you know what their opinions are. And definitely not the cocky person, who will bulldoze everything and everyone else just to get their way.
A confident person, however, is much more likely to be effective in a meeting. Why? Because a confident person:
- knows what they want, and
- knows how to communicate what they want in the right way.
Combined, these elements greatly increase the confident person’s chances of getting what they want out of the meeting.
In short, confidence is important if you want to accomplish your goal for the meeting. Without it, you could easily get roped into someone else’s plan, get started down a path you know is wrong, and/or set your entire team back because you weren’t able to speak up.
Building confidence for your next meeting
Because confidence is so important to success in a meeting, it’s worth spending some time deliberately developing confidence. Each of these things can play a vital role in helping you build your confidence before your next meeting.
Know what you want.
Ultimately, the purpose of a meeting is to accomplish something. You’re going to make decisions, close a deal, solve a problem, or otherwise move yourself and a team forward. But if you don’t know what it is you’re working toward, you’re never going to get there. You’re also not going to have any confidence as you work through the problem, because either the problem has not been clearly identified, or you’re not sure how you would like the problem to be solved.
So, before you go into your next meeting, develop a clear initial objective. This might be a clearly formed answer (i.e. you know how you might want to solve a particular problem). Or, it might just be a clearly defined question (i.e. you don’t know the solution, but you know the problem you need to work on).
Either way, knowing what you want to get out of the meeting will help you stay on track and work toward that objective. And, you’ll have confidence knowing that you are working toward the right thing.
One important thing I always seek to gain from a meeting is a win-win solution. I seek to bring union and a path forward. Knowing that I always want that outcome, it helps to bring what I want and a desire to know what others want into the conversation together.
Challenge your beliefs about confidence.
Sometimes, people are afraid to speak up in meetings because they are afraid they are going to come across as bossy, cocky, or confrontational.
If you are ever going to bring out your confidence, you are going to have to challenge whatever beliefs you have that are separating you from your confidence. Do you think being confident means something negative about you? Is there some reason you associate confidence with another, less desirable quality?
If you want to get to the bottom of these thought patterns, it’s important to be honest with yourself about what you believe. Examine what you really think confidence is and work on any negative thought patterns you identify that are holding you back.
Is there any worse feeling than showing up to a meeting unprepared? When someone asks you what you think and all eyes turn to you, you don’t want to be the person mumbling a halfhearted answer as you try to slump as far down in your seat as possible.
Preparation is key to success—and confidence—in any meeting.
Here are some quick tips for feeling truly prepared:
Know the material.
Know the topic of the meeting. Collect any relevant data. Know your position and why. Know the audience and seek ways of meeting all needs.
Don’t be the guy sneaking into your seat five minutes after the meeting has started. Show up early, get settled, and you’ll feel much more prepared.
Have questions ready.
Asking questions is a great way to get the conversation going and the ideas flowing. Think about the questions you might have on the topic, and ask them when you need to gain an understanding of everyone’s perspective.
Rehearse your opening approach.
Sometimes, getting started is the hardest part. If you’re going to be presenting at your meeting, or considering a position, it wouldn’t hurt to rehearse your opening lines, just to grease the track and help yourself get going.
Be physically ready.
Use the bathroom before the meeting. Bring a bottle of water with you (and even a small snack, if appropriate). Grab a sweater in case you get cold. Have pens, paper, or whatever you need to take notes.
The more prepared you are, the more confident you’ll feel. Don’t hesitate to spend time preparing for your meeting; it will benefit you big time.
Look and act the part.
Confidence is a feeling you have on the inside, but it shows up very definitively on the outside. The good news about this is that it works both ways: feeling confident will make you look confident, and looking confident can help you feel more confident.
Dress appropriately for your meeting, and wear something that makes you feel comfortable and confident. When you dress well, people are more likely to perceive you as someone who should be respected and heard, and as someone who takes their work seriously.
Along with what you wear, how you hold yourself and the body language you use can also send a message of confidence. Practice good posture, maintain eye contact, and try to minimize fidgeting or other nervous behavior.
I’m also a big fan of the power pose before meetings. Striking a power pose can help you feel powerful and more confident, in just a few seconds. This isn’t a move to gain power over someone else, it’s to ensure you are coming from a place of power from within. Before a meeting, find a place where you can be alone, and assume a pose that helps you feel powerful (think: head up, feet firmly planted, hands on hips; feet spread, arms arms above your head; etc.). This is an easy and powerful way to attract a boost of confidence right before a meeting.
Take care of yourself.
Everything we’ve talked about so far is great for when you have a meeting coming up that you have plenty of time to prepare for. But what about smaller meetings, impromptu meetings, or other, more casual social gatherings that bring you anxiety?
The goal is not to be a stressed, anxious mess all of the time, and then pull together a confident act before every meeting. The real goal is to get to a place where you can feel more confident in any situation, whether at work, in your community, or among friends. And that requires taking care of yourself.
This includes physical and mental care. From a physical health standpoint, confidence is going to be hard to come by if you are constantly tired, hungry, or sick. Similarly, you’re more likely to be confident if you like the way you look and feel. From a mental health perspective, it’s important to learn how to design thoughts that bring you away from perfectionism, shame, and self-doubt if you’re going to become a more confident person.
Showing love to yourself isn’t high on everyone’s to-do lists, but if you want to exude confidence in your next meeting and all the time, it’s absolutely vital.
Confidence is key if you want to accomplish what you want to accomplish, whether in a business meeting or in life in general. Try these tips the next time you want to build confidence for your next meeting, and feel the difference a little confidence can make.
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