Each morning, I listen to five new TED Talks with the goal of learning something new by focusing on some specific aspect of the presentation. 

This particular morning, I focused on presentation openings. 

I scanned the front page of the TED website, found an interesting title and clicked the link. The water drop (my interpretation) sound plays, the audience claps, and the talk soon begins. If you’ve ever watched a TED Talk you know what I mean.

I observed and took copious notes. I went through the same process for all five videos. 

However, right after the third presentation, an interesting pattern emerged. I noticed that every presenter seemed confident and in command

“Huh, how’s is that possible?” I wondered. “What is their secret? How do they exude such confidence? Wait, is there a secret?”

As it turns out, there is a secret and it has been staring right at you all alone.  

LET’S PEEK BEHIND THE CURTAIN

As you know, some actions engender confidence – well, at least the appearance of confidence. There are those who walk into a room and exude confidence by how they’re dressed. There are others who command your attention with their voice.

But, I was interested in what engendered confidence in those specific TED Talk presenters?

TED2012: Full Spectrum. February 27 - March 2, 2012. Long Beach, CA. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

TED2012: Full Spectrum. February 27 – March 2, 2012. Long Beach, CA. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Well, let’s find out.

Okay, I want you to go back to the last business or organizational presentation that you witnessed live. Oh, exclude sermons. 

Now, replay that talk in your mind. Specifically, focus on the opening.

Alright, what do all speakers say when they first walk on stage or stand up to present? They say something like this: “I’m really excited to be here today and I want to thank you all for inviting me.”

Yep, they are really excited. Don’t you just get all warm and fuzzy when they tell you that?

Excited? Really?

THEREIN LIES THE FIRST CONFIDENCE ZAPPER

I spend, literally, hundreds of hours a year listening to and observing entrepreneurial pitches and presentations. Here’s what I know for sure: the best presenters never open by telling the audience how excited they are or by thanking them right up front.

Besides, nobody, and I mean nobody, cares if you’re excited. What every audience wants to feel is safe. Yeah, safe. And they don’t feel safe if you don’t exude confidence by telling them something that they don’t care about or know not to be true. 

OKAY, SO, WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

Pause. 

Yup, take a second, just a second, and pause. 

This two or three seconds of silence makes all of the difference in the world. Great presenters communicate to the audience right up front that they are in charge by simply taking a breath and quickly scanning the room before they utter a single word

Yes, it is a subtle gesture. But it is a powerful one. By being the “silent, strong one,” if only for a moment, you send a clear signal that you’re confident and in charge – even if you feel that you’re not.

So, pause, scan the room, and begin your presentation without stating how excited you are. If you have to tell them, it’s not real. 

Finally, thank them at the end.