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Skills, knowledge and experience all come into play when you’re defining yourself as an entrepreneur and growing your company. But you also need to think about your image. In your personal brand, in meetings with clients, in pitches to investors and even when talking to your team, you’ll need to learn how to project confidence if you’re going to succeed.
But how exactly can you do it?
The value of confidence
Confidence can improve your abilities and results as an entrepreneur in many different ways, including:
- First impressions. You know that first impressions are important. Within a few seconds of meeting someone for the first time, they’ll start to form a picture of you. Projecting confidence can seal that image as a competent and experienced one — and help you establish authority and respect in any situation.
- Perception of expertise and authority. Confident people tend to be seen as more authoritative and are more likely to be perceived as “experts.” That’s crucial if you’re trying to recruit top talent to your team or if you’re trying to woo a venture capitalist for a sizable round of funding.
- Leadership and setting the example. Confidence is somewhat contagious. As a leader in your organization (and possibly outside it), you can set a strong example by exhibiting confidence and bravery. People interacting with you will be far more likely to believe in your company and its long-term potential.
- Competing and negotiating. In negotiations, confidence matters as well. Showcasing confidence will make the other side respect you more – and in some cases, intimidate them into accepting a weaker offer. Whether you’re buying, selling or trading, this can favor you.
How to project confidence
So how can you project confidence, even when you’re not feeling particularly self-assured?
- Dress well. People who dress well tend to be perceived as more competent and more confident by others. It’s a sign that you take pride in your appearance and can signal authority. Understand the dress code for each situation you may encounter and err on the side of overdressing. Also make sure your clothes fit well; it will make you feel more confident in addition to looking confident.
- Stand tall. Posture and body language play a major role in your apparent confidence. Try to stand tall with your shoulders back and your hands at your sides, or maintain an erect, steady posture while sitting. Studies show that proper posture can also affect your internal dialogue, helping you feel better about yourself.
- Remain calm. Nothing screams insecurity more than someone nervously fidgeting or panicking in the heat of the moment. Even if you’re not feeling particularly calm, you have to work to appear as calm as possible. Keep your hands steady or hide them from view if they’re shaking. Keep your voice slow, controlled and deliberate. Avoid gestures of nervousness or excitement like wiping the sweat from your forehead.
- Watch your body language. Pay attention to your body language. Even small tweaks can significantly change how other people perceive your confidence level. For example, if you nervously tap your foot or jiggle your leg, it can make you seem anxious and unsure of yourself (even if you aren’t). If you consistently face your listeners and make eye contact, you’ll seem more self-assured.
- Believe what you’re saying. It’s much easier to seem confident if you genuinely believe what you’re saying. Do your research before any talk or meeting and come prepared with a handful of facts in which you have total confidence. If you don’t know the answer to something, just admit that you don’t know instead of making something up on the fly.
- Adopt a resolute tone. Your tone of voice can have a powerful impact on how your words are perceived. Whether fair or not, if your tone changes frequently, or if you practice certain habits like “uptalk,” it could make you seem less sure of yourself. Speak slowly, in an expressive yet sincere tone and try to be as assertive as possible without sounding arrogant.
- Practice and polish what you can. The more you rehearse, the more naturally confident you’ll be in your own abilities. Just don’t practice so much that you sound robotic or insincere.
- Surround yourself with others. Social proof can play into your perceived confidence as well. Depending on the situation, you may want to arrive with a team of people who are ready to support you and back your statements.
- Get feedback. Finally, make sure you get feedback. Give pitches and speeches to people you love and trust and see if they perceive you as confident. If they don’t, ask them what could be different. You may find that a certain tic or habit is compromising your perceived confidence.
It’s easy to project confidence if you already feel confident. And the best way to do that is to become competent and knowledgeable in your chosen area of expertise. The more experience you get and the more you learn, the more naturally confident you’ll become. Feel free to utilize these strategies as shortcuts and enhancers for your natural confidence — but don’t forget to develop your “real” confidence as well.
Originally appeared in Entrepreneur