Home Bot CategoriesLivingCareer HOW TO BUILD CONFIDENCE


by Shaibyaa Rajbhandari

Recently I gave a speech about my life to over 200 of my classmates at Stanford. I had to speak for 20 minutes straight and keep the crowd captivated throughout. After the event, a ton of people reached out to me not just to talk about the content of my speech but to tell me that I came across as a very confident public speaker. 

It’s ironic though because just a week before the event, as I was answering a question in class, I could barely form a proper sentence. My voice was shaking and it two levels higher pitched than it normally is. I knew the content well, but I could not get past my nerves while speaking to a group of 30. So why was the contrast between my speech and my answer in class so stark?

The million-dollar answer if it was not obvious from the title, is confidence!

Confidence, or the feeling of being assured about your knowledge and abilities, is as much about internal assurance as it is about being able to project it on others. While for some of us, appearing confident comes naturally, for others, we need to train ourselves to come across as more put together. It is understandable that many of us, especially women, have been socialised to take a back seat when we do not know enough about a topic. However, the ability to confidently assert ourselves in all situations is what will help our peers, bosses, and colleagues trust us. 

Going back to the two examples from earlier, it is not that I did not understand the topic in class enough, I just did not put in enough work to assure myself that I knew about it. For my speech on the other hand, I had put in weeks’ worth of effort preparing. Over the years of working on soft skills to build my confidence, I have shortlisted some tips and tricks that can make us appear more confident.

If you notice your voice getting shaky, holding a water bottle or a pen while presenting stabilises your voice. It allows you to exert pressure on your hands. You may have noticed that when you are speaking behind a podium, your voice is more stable; holding an object provides a similar sense of protection

Before presenting on stage or walking into a meeting, I always take 30 seconds to practice power poses – anything from pretending to be superwoman or doing a catwalk in the lobby. This makes my body ready to take over a room

The night before a meeting, I usually practice saying my name and giving a brief introduction in front of my mirror. Usually, meetings and calls start with introductions and practicing beforehand helps me set a stable tone from the get-go

I usually do mock presentations for my friends or sometimes even to an empty room. A dry-run before big events is a must as it also gives you a better sense of the content 

This one might be an uncomfortable experience, but I always record my answers before an interview. This helps me recognise parts where I sound less sure of myself and I pick up on filler words I use often, such as “umm.”

Dressing for the part also helps me. I have found that adding a blazer automatically increases my confidence. I also avoid wearing new shoes or getting a haircut before big events as both take some time for me to get comfortable in.

All these steps require practice and ample preparation. In some situations, such as the speech I gave, we have enough time to prepare and appear more confident than in other situations such as in my class, where I was taken aback when my professor cold-called me for an answer. What I could have done better is draw the link between the skills I developed while working on my speech and my task of answering a question in class. The tips I listed above are transferrable in all situations and if we keep working on them, overtime they will become second nature.

While I was working at McKinsey, one of the things that always amazed me about the Firm’s Partners was that within a day, they could read a 60-page long deck and present it beautifully to the clients. When I asked one of my Partners how she was able to do so, she smiled and said she spent over two hours practicing the night before. She also mentioned that practicing enough times over the years had also made her faster and better at identifying behaviours that helped her appear more confident.

In new situations when you don’t know, you can falter but you must be gentle with yourself.
Shaibyaa Rajbhandari is a female founder on a quest to advance gender parity through her professional endeavours.

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