Pitching with confidence
When pitching, saying the right thing is not enough. What also matters is how we say it.
According to Mehrabian communication theory: when it comes to human communication, the words we use only account for 7% of the impact of our message. Incredibly, our tone of voice conveys 38% of the meaning, and our body language accounts for 55%.
Confidence is a vital component of any pitch, and it is communicated through all aspects of our communication, which is mainly non-verbal. This means that our mental preparation is just as, if not more, important than the preparation of our material. Studies by Estes and Felker have found that how confident we feel affects how well we actually perform.
Pitching confidently helps us do many things, including (and not limited to):
Be more engaging
When someone speaks confidently, we are drawn in and find ourselves hanging on their every word. Confident pitchers successfully capture the attention of their audience and are more likely to have engagement with the pitch.
Confidence projects self-belief and transparency. Being transparent about what we are presenting makes our audience more likely to trust us and find out more about the product or service we are pitching.
Handle unexpected challenges
Unexpected problems are to be expected. Tech issues or even temporary moments where our mind goes blank are common and can affect the success of our pitch if we do not deal with them well. Confidence allows us to deal with these challenges calmly and credibly.
So how can we come across as more confident during pitches?
1. Reframe nerves as excitement
Feeling nervous ahead of a pitch is completely normal - 77% of us have some level of anxiety around public speaking.
When we are nervous, our bodies enter fight or flight mode. The symptoms include arms and legs shaking, sweating, pupils dilating, and our neck and back tensing up. Funnily enough, these are the same bodily responses we have when experiencing excitement.
A study at Harvard Business School looked at anxiety-producing situations, including presenting, and the best strategies to deal with them. Participants were divided into two groups and asked to give a presentation.
Before they presented Group A had to repeat “I am calm”’
Before they presented Group B had to repeat I am excited”
Group B outperformed group A on persuasiveness and confidence. They appeared to have a better experience overall and reported feeling less anxious. The study shows that reframing our nerves as excitement is an effective method to build confidence and reduce nerves.
Next time you are feeling anxious ahead of a presentation or pitch, tell yourself that you are excited instead of trying to calm yourself. The symptoms of both are similar, and we trick ourselves into thinking we are excited instead of nervous. This helps us pitch more confidently.
2. Be conscious of your tone of voice
As the Mehrabian study shows, our tone of voice makes up 38% of the meaning of our message.
Going up at the end of our sentences makes us sound less confident, as it sounds as if we are unsure of what we are saying. This impacts how much our audience trusts what we are saying and reduces the impact of our pitch. We can avoid this by lowering our tone at the end of a sentence, making it more confident and calm.
3. Improve your posture
Many of us are aware that our mind affects our body. When we feel powerful and confident, we open up our bodies and occupy more space. When we are not, we do the opposite - we bring in our shoulders and try to physically take up less space.
What many of us tend to miss is that this is a two way relationship: our bodies and our postures affect our mind and mood as much as the other way round.
Amy Cuddy found that by adopting powerful poses which are more open and relaxed, we send signals to our brain that this is how we actually feel. This makes us feel more confident and has the matching chemical effect. It increases testosterone - which leads to feelings of increased confidence, and decreases cortisol - a hormone related to stress.
Holding a high power pose for two minutes will
Increase confidence by boosting testosterone by 20%
Lower stress by decreasing cortisol by 25%
Holding a low power pose for two minutes will
Decrease confidence by lowering testosterone by 10%
Make us more stressed by increase cortisol by 15%
“Don't fake it ‘til you make it, fake it ‘til you become it.” - Amy Cuddy
Whether you are pitching for new business or simply convincing friends to have lunch somewhere different; the more confident your pitch, the more likely you are to succeed.
We would love to hear from you if you found these suggestions helpful, or if you have any of your own.