When it comes to grow professionally, confidence plays a big part in getting recognized and making an impression with clients, partners, and colleagues. However, sometimes your nerves, anxieties, or situational factors get in the way.
Whether you’re a man, woman, introverted, or extroverted – lacking assertiveness can hinder you from leading your team and helping them reaching your business’ goals, closing a deal or making a good impression. Having confidence is particularly critical if you’re trying to expand your business and grow a company; if you’re used to being on your own as a sole trader it can be hard to get into the rhythm of leading a team.
But instead of accepting this, it’s time to do something about it, as being more confident in meetings, both formal and informal, will help you be a better team leader and boost your career.
Here are some simple strategies you can use:
1. Prepare and practice
The more prepared you are, the easier it will be to speak up when the time is right. In advance of a meeting, plan the key points you want to make, jotting them down on paper if needed – this will demonstrate how committed you are.
If you’re worried that nerves will hold you back, practice what you want to say with a friend or partner. Focus on relaxing your breathing, speaking slowly, and making eye contact. This helps ensure that you get your points across clearly and succinctly.
Even outside of meetings, make an effort to share your opinions in everyday conversations, taking note of when and why you start to feel uncomfortable.
2. Reframe your thinking
Shaky hands. Clammy palms. Dry throat. Butterflies in the stomach. When you’re heading into a client meeting, these aren’t the sensations you want accompanying you. But sometimes you can’t help it, and all of a sudden you find yourself giving in and second-guessing your own abilities.
Just keep in mind that it’s completely normal to feel pre-meeting jitters and anxieties. No matter how much of a high-achiever you are, anyone can all fall victim to imposter syndrome. However, instead of chastising yourself for this, it often helps to reframe these feelings of inadequacy as positive signs that you’re ready for action and keen to make an impact.
3. Stop apologizing
Unfortunately, women often struggle with this more than men. While it can be hard not to downplay your achievements or to speak with complete confidence (particularly in the presence of superiors), there’s absolutely no need to apologize or disqualify yourself in any way. Remember, you’re in the meeting for a reason. Your perspective, experience, and skills are valuable.
Even if clients aren’t warming to your ideas, stick to your guns and present them clearly and concisely. Be assertive, not aggressive – and practice cutting the word “sorry” out of your vocabulary, as well as phrases like “I guess”, “I don’t know” and “I’m not sure.”
4. Use body language
Projecting confidence isn’t just about what you say, it’s about how you present yourself too. In your next team meeting, make an effort to sit up straight and lean forward. This can help you to feel more engaged and inclined to speak up at the moment.
If you want to get your points across, seat yourself in a central position. Importantly, remember to use eye contact when listening and speaking to people. This shows people that you’re focused and interested.
5. Ask questions
Asking questions is one of the easiest ways to get your voice heard within a meeting. Instead of worrying about delivering the perfect monologue, use your knowledge and skills to probe and expand subject matters.
If you’re a very observant person, use this to your advantage and ask deep questions – particularly ones that your clients or co-workers may not have thought about. Just be prepared to back yourself up if you’re asked to follow up or expand your line of thinking.
Your route to success
Whether you’re a senior executive or it’s your first client meeting, building confidence takes time and effort. As a professional skill, it’s invaluable to develop. So take a breath, know what you’re worth, and try out these simple strategies.