So far, this series has looked at three of the four Ps of effective meetings, preparation, practise and performance. It’s now time to look at personal confidence. You might be thinking that without it, none of the other Ps can happen. But you’d be mistaken. The truth is, it’s actually the other way around. If you prepare, practise and then perform, your personal confidence takes care of itself, as if by magic; except of course it’s not magic at all.
So how do you cultivate confidence? How might you block yourself from accessing it and what can you do to move around the barriers?
I spoke with Bell Integrated senior client partner Ling Jin; account director Sarah Topley, head of design Jason Bannister; and Su Duff (ex-Bell) about their increased personal confidence as a result of the changes they’ve made to their preparation, practise and performance.
Confidence is created and comes from a Growth mindset: According to psychologist Carol Dweck there are two mindsets. One believes that talent creates success, and is called the fixed mindset. The other believes that effort and the growth and development that comes from it leads to success. This is called the growth mindset. It was by discovering her growth mindset that Jin became a better presenter.
Jin says, “I realised the idea of confidence and charisma come from nature and you’ve either got them or you haven’t, is actually not true. I found out that someone who I recognise as being very confident in meetings, actually sits down and spends time creating their vision for the meeting beforehand. And that’s what triggers their confidence.”
Confidence is a consequence of action, not a cause: Think about how you prepare, practise and reflect on your performance. And then take action. Jin did this and as a consequence, she can say “I own this meeting because I know what I want to get out of it. Confidence is the result, preparation and practice are the route.” Bannister did this by “knowing my client, and my role in the meeting improves my self-confidence. Knowledge is a power.”
Energy flows where your attention goes: Give your conscious mind something other than nerves to focus on. This worked for Jin when preparing for a meeting, “I found when I ask the purposeful question: ‘What do I want to get out of this meeting?’, it keeps my focus and prevents me from drifting in the meeting.”
A little anxiety or caution is a useful thing: it reminds you that there is something at stake. It tells you to prepare and to practise and those actions enable you to perform. The trick is to learn to manage it. For Duff, this was about developing an awareness of what she was feeling and then acting “to give myself time to reflect and refocus. I’m learning when something needs to change to take positive action to change it. I can recognise this now and am in control of it.”
Here are two of the common barriers we put in front of our confidence and some suggestions on how to remove or work around them:
We discount ourselves – we say things to ourselves like “I’m not a good presenter” or “I’m just not confident speaking to a room full of people”. We’re denying ourselves the opportunity to grow and develop.
Topley believes that “positive thoughts radiate positive beliefs. They get you looking forward to the meeting, you feed off the buzz. A simple but effective way to turn a discouraging thought around is to add a three-letter word to the end of the sentence in your mind: “…yet.”
Lack of meaning – we’re given words to say. We’re told when to say them. We say them but we struggle with them. We try so hard to remember them but we don’t. The answer? Make what you’ve got to say meaningful for you. You’ll find you won’t have to work as hard to remember it. When Jin discovered this, “it added to my confidence, enhanced my performance and influenced the audience more positively.”
Think beyond the next meeting or presentation: what do you want to do with your life? What are your career goals and aspirations? Would a sound approach to meetings and presentations give you confidence to progress in other areas? Would it give you the energy to make a change in your life that you’re looking to make? If so, then you could see the three Ps as the ingredients to get you there. There are opportunities all around you every day. So, if you’re looking to make more of your life, develop your career, get noticed and be more successful in meetings and presentations, eat your Ps and you’ll get there.
Thanks to Bell, Ling, Sarah, Jason and Su for their time and valuable contributions to this series of articles. This is the fourth P of the four Ps designed to help agencies to raise their game in meetings and presentations. Good luck and if you would like to discover a little more about how to utilise some of these and other techniques, please give me a call.
John Scarrott is a trainer and coach working with design professionals on their approach to influential communication. Find him on Twitter @JohnDScarrott or check out his website where you can find other similar and helpful articles.