Ten Unusual Ways to Improve Your Appearance of Confidence That Really Work

Enterprise 2.0 conference - Rome, Dec 2008 - 19.  Photo by Ed Yourdon.I’ve seen it over and over again: the person in the office with self-confidence is the one that gets the plum assignments. The promotions. The raises. The recognition. The others, who sit back quietly, get left behind (and sometimes resent it).

For a long time, I was one of the resentful folks. I had a hard time speaking up in group situations and I hated presenting. The first time I had to give a major presentation to a group and interact with them, I went to the bathroom repeatedly and threw up until I was dry heaving because I was so nervous and so unconfident.

What I’ve learned over time is that the person that appears confident is often not as confident as they appear. They just simply do a few things well. They walk in a way that appears confident. Their eyes seem alert. They stand tall. They have a faint appeal that you can’t quite put your finger on. You feel fine talking to them, but not to most people.

They’re not wired differently than you. They just do a few clever things.

Over time, I’ve figured out how to make many of those things quite natural for me – and most of the techniques I use are somewhat unusual. Here are ten of them. Each of them will help if you have problems with appearing confident, as I sometimes do.

1. Pick a spot.
When you first walk into a room, look around with your head completely level. Find a spot in the room that’s exactly at your eye level. It can be something on the wall, an object hanging from the ceiling, or something else. Pick something you’ll find visually interesting, if you can find anything. Once you’ve found your spot, remember it. Then, whenever you’re nervous, sweep your eyes to that spot.

What this does is it allows you to keep your nervous tic of staring at the floor or looking away from someone – something that can be very hard for an introvert to break – and redirect it in a bit of an optical illusion. By keeping your eyes up at eye level – which they will be if you look at that object – you appear to be looking at another person. That is a subtle cue of confidence – you’re looking for others, thus you must be socially accepted.

Obviously, you shouldn’t stare at the object, but knowing it’s there and looking at it from time to time when you’re nervous is a vast improvement over casting your eyes down, which signals a complete lack of confidence.

2. Improve your posture with duct tape.
Yes, duct tape. Masking tape or electrical tape or even Scotch tape will work, too. You’ll need a friend or a spouse with this.

Stand up as straight as you can, with your back vertical and your arms at your sides, relaxed. Then, have a friend take a strip of duct tape and run a three inch strip down your back. The top of it should be on the center of one of your shoulder blades and end three inches below it. Then, that person should put a second strip, starting at the center of your other shoulder blade and going straight down for three inches. Take a third strip and apply it horizontally, connecting the tops of the strips, then a fourth strip connecting the bottoms of the vertical strips. You should have a rectangle on your back, nearly square in shape.

Here’s the thing. As you go through your day, every time you attempt to slouch, that tape will tug at your skin, resisting a poor change in posture. It’s not painful (unless you have excessive hair back there), but it is enough of a physical reminder to cause you to naturally keep a good posture.

This works great before a big meeting, but it also works great for training by doing it every day for a few weeks. You’ll naturally exercise some muscles in your back, making them stronger, and allow other muscles to relax and slightly weaken. What will happen is that your muscles will begin to find that a position of good posture is the natural one and that’s how you’ll begin to sit and stand.

Good posture gives the appearance of confidence, and this is a great little way to create that appearance.

3. Carry a flask – whether you drink or not.
I was at a conference chatting with a really solid presenter from Oracle whose name I can’t recall right now – let’s call him “Jim.” After a really great presentation, I started chatting with Jim and discovered that we knew a few people in common, so after the chat, we agreed to go get a drink together.

On the way, we both needed to stop to use the restroom. When I was finished, I walked out to see Jim taking a big slug out of a flask he had pulled out of his front pocket. I jokingly said, “Whoa, cowboy! Getting an early start?” He smiled, swished the liquid around in his mouth for a minute, then spit out some blue stuff. He grinned and said, “Listerine.”

It was a trick of his. Whenever he was about to meet with some people, he’d head to the bathroom, take a slug out of his flask, swish it around for a bit, then spit it out. He’d follow it with a bit of water to get any bad taste out, then look in the mirror to make sure there wasn’t any food in his teeth.

Doing that simple routine made him feel better. He could be sure his breath didn’t smell at all, his mouth felt squeaky clean, and he was also confident there was no food on his face or in his teeth. All around, it really gave his confidence a bump.

Good advice. I actually started just keeping a travel bottle of Listerine with me, but this is a great use for a flask since they’re designed to fit well in a pocket.

4. Go for a thirty minute fast walk three times a week.
Walking improves your health. We all know it – and it’s absolutely true. Thirty minutes walking instead of watching a television show will help you lose weight, feel better, and all that.

But it has an extra confidence booster in it as well.

If you make an effort to walk as fast as you can on your walks, the speed of your natural, normal walk will increase, too. It’ll feel more natural for you to go faster, so you will. You’ll strengthen all the appropriate muscles and, soon, the way you walk across a room will look much more confident than before without any conscious effort on your part.

5. Memorize a person’s eye color with one extra adjective.
I have a hard time looking people in the eye. Mostly, it’s because my eyes sometimes have problems focusing well, especially in the evening, but there’s also an aspect of low confidence there, too.

I’ve found a solution that works well in both regards. It gives me a reason to look people in the eye on a regular basis (making me appear confident) but not too much (making me appear creepy).

All I do is this. When I first meet a person, I look into their eyes until I can describe their eye color with one noun and at least one descriptive adjective. Their eyes are “cloudy blue.” Their eyes are “mocha brown.” Once I’ve figured it out, I’m free to look away.

Then, if I can’t recall immediately their eye color, I know I should look back. In practice, this means that I tend to look at their eyes directly several times early on in our conversation, but not too much at one shot. Instead, I alternate it with the first trick, swiveling my eyes to an object at eye level in the room.

What does this do? It creates an impression that I’m interested in what they’re saying and also fully engaged in the larger event – very confident – when in truth I’m not confident at all.

6. Keep a chamomile tea bag in your wallet.
Chamomile tea is an effective natural relaxant. It is the single best natural way I’ve found to calm myself down in any situation that makes me nervous. If I feel awkward, I’ll just find some hot water, put it in a cup, dunk in a bag of chamomile tea, let it steep for a couple minutes, then drink it down. Calmness washes over me.

It really helps with appearing confident, too. I tend to get quite nervous during social events – and it shows. I talk too fast, look away, and generally hide from conversation. In short, I need to calm down. When I’m calm, my speech gets a bit slower, I’m less nervous around other people, and I’m more willing to engage others – all signs of confidence.

Chamomile is a natural calming agent that’s pretty much socially acceptable in any situation, so it’s a great “secret weapon” to have in your pocket.

7. “Hi, I’m Trent Hamm.” Period.
Whenever I would introduce myself to people, I often found myself saying things like, “Hi, I’m Trent Hamm and I work on this project and I wrote this document” or something to that effect. In my nervousness, I felt the need to include what amounted to a short resume with my name.

I believed at the time that it would do a good job of laying out who I was to people, but what it actually does is shows that you’re not confident already in who you are. If the other person doesn’t know who you are, they’ll either ask for information – or they’ll hold it in and believe they should know who you are. In either case, you seem more intriguing and in control.

So, next time you introduce yourself, stop with your name. At the very least, it opens the door to more conversation.

8. Hit Google News.
Whenever I enter a group, I usually stop and check the news to see if any major events have occurred really recently. This gives me something to break the ice with almost every time – I can simply use a major news event or a popular culture event to open with.

I usually read the top stories and see if there’s anything of strong general interest there. If it’s a slow news day, I’ll check the entertainment and sports news. In some groups, I’ll check other news sections, too – technology works well in some groups, and business and money news works well in other groups. If I see something interesting but I don’t understand a big piece of it, I take another few seconds and hit Wikipedia to give myself enough context that I’m not clueless.

Having a current event or two in my head gives me something to say when I’m standing there wondering what on earth I should be talking about. Quite often, the person who comes up with conversation topics is often the person who comes off as confident, as many other people are often standing around just as nervously.

9. Take five deep breaths.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with a situation or you’re about to step out into a room where you have to start speaking very quickly, just pause for a moment and take five deep breaths.

The intake of a lot of oxygen does several little things to your biochemistry, all of which are helpful. It lowers blood pressure. It increases alertness. It reduces anxiety. In short, it’s a very simple thing that helps in almost any situation that makes you nervous.

I find that any time I know I’m going to be speaking soon, I do this. It always helps, without fail – I feel better right after doing it.

10. When in doubt, ask a question.
So, your breath smells good. Your posture is good. You naturally walk with confidence and introduce yourself with confidence. You do a bit of small talk with current events. Then….

The best thing you can possibly do is lead the conversation. The best way to do that is to simply ask a question and then listen to the response. Ask them what they do. Ask them about their biggest project. Ask them what they think of the meeting, or of the last speaker. Ask them what hotel they’re staying at and if they like it.

Then, listen to what they say. Almost always, you can follow up on something there. You can relate your own experience or thoughts. You can ask another question. You can dig into information that you actually want to know more about.

Line this up with the other techniques (the eye technique and good posture) and you’ll look confident no matter how you feel inside.

Good luck.

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  1. Kevin M says:

    Great tips, Trent. I’ve noticed myself looking down quite a bit lately so #1 should really help with that.

  2. eMoneyLog says:

    I like to visualize the settings and the people before hand. Like the opening lines I would like to say, formal or casual setup, etc. This helps a lot for interviews. The downside is that is may be nothing like you imagined but still works most of the times.

  3. Katrina says:

    I love these tips. I agree with your comment that confident people really aren’t as confident as they appear; they’re just good at appearing to be confident.

    And, here’s the thing–ultimately, when you can act like your confident, your real confidence automatically increases.

    Most of these tips are things I’ve not really thought about, but I can see already how they would help with appearing confident.

  4. delacruz says:

    Hey Trent, this is a nice list of tricks. I usually do not have any problems with being with a lot of strangers, but I definitely will try the duct tape method, to have a look if I manage to better my nerdy stature a little! :)

    The only thing that I would not sign is the notion of walking FAST. It probably IS a good idea to train walking if one doesnt´t do it too much normally, but if you walk too fast, at least to me you don´t seem confident. Bosses and important persons don´t rush, they take their time, although they know very well where they are heading.

    You also loose a lot of the fun to walk around slowly, as you will miss all the great details of your walk…

  5. James says:

    I agree, great tips. Gonna have to try #2, I’m always slouching. Also love #5.

  6. Annie Binns says:

    As someone who has been faking confidence for several decades now, I am glad to have a few more tips! You’re absolutely right that the appearance of confidence helps in almost every situation. Very few people at my office realize I’m painfully shy and would rather put pencils in my eye than strike up a conversation. I really like the eye-color trick – I’ll see if I can pull that off without crossing the creepy line.

  7. marie says:

    I’m big on #10. When conversation halts, I usually try to think of a question that can be answered with more than a yes or no, and something that will lead a follow up conversation.

    For example, asking where a person went to school can get people talking for hours.

    As for the bad breath, I usually keep mints in my bag.

  8. Carol says:

    5. What do you do about eyes that change colour? Apparently mine have changed to four distinctly different colours during one conversation. I suppose you could keep checking what colour they are every once in a while.

    6. I am very allergic to chamomile. If someone is at a reasonable distance from me for conversation purposes (or just within a couple of feet of me) and has a cup of chamomile tea with them, the fumes will cause me instant nausea, my throat to close up, and all that kind of fun.

    Yes, it sucks a lot, especially since it’s a popular tea to stock for restaurants, meetings and conferences. I check for it on menus and when I enter rooms with tea provided, but I can’t go around checking people’s pockets and bags. I guess my point is to be careful: I don’t think it’s a very common allergy, but I can’t be the only person with it and even all the precautions I take aren’t always enough.

  9. Laura in Atlanta says:

    Im a fan of the “Hi Im Trent Hamm” approach. Sometimes, we get caught up in what the person DOES and not who he or she IS.

  10. Suzanne says:

    These tips are sensational. Did you pick them up from somewhere/someone or did you develop them yourself?

  11. Trent says:

    Hi, Laura, I’m Trent Hamm.

    Suzanne: I developed many of them myself, like the “eye level” trick (I remember when I actually conceived of that one). I probably heard something that helped me develop some of these along the way, but not from any one source.

  12. Michael says:

    I am going to try the duct tape tomorrow. This was an unusual list and I liked it for that.

  13. Todd @ The Personal Finance Playbook says:

    I really like the tip about the eye color. Making yourself look someone in the eye is a good practice. If that trick can help you do it, I think it’s a great one.

  14. Several great tips…I won’t be trying the duct tape thing due to my italian heritage…but I digress.

    I happen to be one of those confident folks that often leads meetings and presentations and is quite confident at work. I also get regularly promoted. I don’t do so good in my personal life, because that confidence is false and doesn’t translate. I admit that I have abysmal posture though, and am often surprised that I am looked to as a leader at work because of it. I am actually quite self-confident about it.

    I’m still not sold on the flask, Trent, unless you can keep it well-hidden. No one wants to be thought of as the closet-alcoholic.

  15. Ryan says:

    Big props on the eye color trick. That’s really effective and original. I’m often told that I appear fun-loving and confident, but I don’t feel it in my soul. Appearing confident and laid-back has become part of my persona. It’s ironic considering I’m unfortable looking at myself in the mirror, but reasonably comfortable giving a presentation.

    Also, beyond walking, I think getting and staying in shape is good for confidence. Besides looking good, I feel like physical accomplishments make me feel generally more confident about myself (as vain as that is!).

  16. Steve says:

    I’m right there with you, Charley, about the flask idea.
    I support all of these thoughts (and am going to try some, for sure!) but I live in a generally conservative religious community, and the appearance of alcohol will turn many people away from me with just one short glance and one long jump to conclusions on their part.
    Though, I always did want to carry around a flask wherever I go… :)

  17. Sara says:

    LOVE these tips! It’s good to know I’m not the only person in the world who feels socially awkward sometimes. I do try to notice a persons eye color when first meeting them to make sure I make eye contact, but the adjective idea is awesome. I’ve been working to improve posture/ appear more confident since beginning my first “real job”. My co-workers were saying they wish they had my confidence at the x-mas party! Fake it till you make it, right?

  18. Jackie says:

    I am definitely one of those who fakes confidence well enough that people are often surprised when I identify myself as terribly shy. I think you’re absolutely right about eye contact– I realized, after a few people told me, that one of the reasons people think I’m a good listener is because I am good at the eye contact thing.

    I will definitely use the first tip– when I first enter a situation, I definitely feel awkward, so it will help to know that my face isn’t betraying how I’m feeling.

    As for the second tip, my grandmother had another version when I was young– if she saw one of us slouching, while we were standing or walking, she would sneak up behind us and pinch us right in the middle of our spines! Believe me, when a little old lady gives you a fierce pinch-and-twist to the back, after a few times, you stop slouching!

  19. kat says:

    Wow, great tips. They’re out of the ordinary and thus helpful — not the same crap those of us who struggle in social situations have been hearing or reading our whole lives. The difference between the generic “have better posture” and “make eye contact” and your tricks with the duct tape and eye color is huge. I will definitely have to try some of these… except #6, since chamomile tea knocks me out! (It’s what I drink when I have trouble sleeping.)

    I agree with Charley (#9) about the flask thing, too. If it was me it would probably just make me anxious about whether people thought I had hard liquor in there. Me, I carry those Listerine strips — they’re very discreet and effective, and the package is tiny.

    On reflection, though, maybe that tip is more about targeting what is going to worry YOU in a social situation, whether it’s “Does my breath smell bad?” or something else entirely. What will you be focused on that will keep you from being completely present when you’re talking to someone? Once you know that, you can carry whatever will put your mind to rest about that problem. (A small comb? A hand mirror? Powder for sweaty palms? Small bills so you don’t have to stop at the ATM or be the one person with a credit card when it comes time to split the tab?)

  20. Jessica W says:

    What anti virus software do you use on your Mac. I checked consumer reports… but everything they recommend seems to be for a PC.

  21. friend says:

    Trent, These are interesting and original — thanks! The tea bag idea struck me funny. I thought you were going to say, breathe in the calming aroma to help you relax. It didn’t occur to me that you were going to BREW the tea. Maybe either one would work.

  22. Marsha says:

    Great tips – although I’m also uneasy with the flask tip. Still, it’s a good idea to have some mints or mouthwash on hand. Ditto for deodorant and other “emergency” items (e.g., safety tips, bandaids, extra shirt or hose). Sometimes just having those items available can make you feel more secure.

  23. katy says:

    ..Do you know of groups that have meetings for people interested in reducing debt or improving personal finance habits?..

    Debtors Anonymous

  24. Baker @ ManVsDebt says:

    Wow, after reading this I realized I have recently began doing #7, as well.

    Hi, I’m Adam Baker. Just feels so much better than constantly trying to justify myself. I wasn’t completely aware, but you put this into words perfectly!

  25. Maggie says:

    I want to thank you for your wonderful blog. I found it out after a little Internet search and has read many useful posts packed with practical information. I’ve read a couple of books you recommended, like Getting Things Done and it has made a positive change in my productivity and efforts in being more organized. Thanks! I like chamomile tea!

  26. KED says:

    So many great tips Trent. Fortunately I was raised by two parents that repeatedly told me I could do anything, anything at all if I “put my mind” to it and worked hard to reach my goals.

    Of course, I also believe knowledge opens the door to many things. In short, I read alot and research subjects constantly. That is how I began following your blog……

    Thanks for another great post.

  27. Jeff Pershing says:

    This is an incredible post. Each point I was like yeah, that is a good idea. Thanks for sharing this trent, I use refresh tea instead of the chamomile.

  28. chb says:

    Thanks Trent. A question: Do you now genuinely feel confident in most situations, or do you still feel like you’re faking/forcing it with all the tricks? I feel confident in my ability to “appear” confident, but in any social situation that calls for things like me introducing myself, starting and maintaining conversations with strangers, I still internally dread and hate the entire process. I wonder if it will ever go away?

  29. spaces says:

    OMG I love the eye trick. That’s brilliant.

    I spent many formative years on stage — started gigging as a musician when I was 12. A couple of things I’ll throw in: First, everyone carries stress in their bodies, most noticably in their shoulders. Keep your shoulders DOWN, keep your neck relaxed, both areas are dead giveaways that you’re tense and being tight there makes you move funny. Second, talk to the back row, or beyond the back row. Start there and work forward. This include the entire audience in your net and tends to make the room feel smaller, and more intimate, and makes the audience feel like you’re talking TO them.

  30. Lindy Abbott says:

    Love the posture idea. Wonder how much it hurts when you take the duck tape off… do you need to shower or just peel it off.

    my teenage dd slouches all the time, she is shy about becoming a young lady and tries to cover her body. This might be a way to train her, but I will try it first.

    also very good for teaching youth how to act in groups of mixed ages. very few ever look at eye level.

  31. Keira says:

    This was great! Many of these tips could be applied to job interviews too. Thanx!

  32. graytham says:

    Great tips, Trent. I really enjoyed this post and will definitely implement some of these ideas. I especially love the “pick a spot in the room” and “memorize the eye color” tricks.

    You’re so right about asking a question, getting people to talk about themselves. I’ve found that it’s great just in normal conversation, even with someone you know, whenever there’s a lull. People love to talk about their favorite subject (themselves)!

  33. Betsy says:

    I really liked this post – very novel eye, flask and duct tape strategies and the post hits everyone in the big fear area: public speaking. I have to speak in public soon so I have an excuse to bring the chamomile etc. :)

    Nicely done!

  34. jc says:

    This is your best post in a while, Trent. In particular, the advice to just introduce with your name is brilliant. Just thinking about some of my own rambling self-introductions (even recently) is enough to make me red-faced.

  35. dvlopez says:

    I would add another one. Avoid any source of cafeine (like coffe or sodas) or any other stimulant before any event that could make you feel nervous.

  36. Ms Alex says:

    I totally agree about introducing yourself with just your name, at a recent training session everyone introduced themself with a mini-bio. I’m pretty most people forgot most details, including the names!

  37. Hi, I'm Mary says:

    The timing of this article, for me, was perfect. I’ve been looking for ways to appear more confident and in control. Social situations have always been awkward for me and these ideas will help tremendously. Now that I’ve set my sites on becoming a best-selling author, I have one more tool in my arsenal. Thank you!

  38. Anna says:

    Excellent post with good ideas.

    I’m with #13 Kat — carry items with you that you have already figured out will come in handy and give you a sense of security. I have carried two small safety pins in my wallet for a couple of years. Imagine my delight three days ago when I happened to be present while a friend was rooting through stuff and asked me “Do you know where I can find a safety pin?” “Right here,” I said, and pulled out my wallet and gave him one. I felt as though I had pulled off a major coup!

  39. Terri says:

    Trent,

    I loved the tips. Great tips even if you aren’t speaking but just going to social events. I always have trouble during a lull in conversation now I will just go online before I leave for the event and get a couple of news events that I can comment on. Thanks for the ideas.

  40. Jaden says:

    I thought this was a great post! Some excellent, unique tips… Thanks Trent!

  41. Rob Bennett says:

    These are outstanding tips on a unique topic.

    I would add — Sit in the First Row.

    No one ever sits in first row. If you do it, everyone will notice. It makes an impression.

    Another one is — Offer to Do Your Presentation First.

    Everyone is worried about having to go to the front of the room. The one who does it gets a lot of sympathy votes. No one has any sympathy left for those who go last. People think that if you offer to go first you must know your stuff.

    Rob

  42. Great tips, Trent. This is why the Simple Dollar is in my RSS – it’s so darn practical!

    I recently started a small business, and suddenly instead of being just a cog in the machine, I am the face of an organization. I was desperately in need of some confidence tricks like this for those business meetings with executives. Thanks so much!

  43. Sandy says:

    I have always been incredibly shy speaking to groups. I don’t think I was ever given the opportunity to get up in front of people while growing up. I’m better now, but still feel nervous. My kids, on the other hand, have had the opportunity from early childhood to get up in front of our church on a weekly basis as the congregation sings all the children in. The minister asks them what they learned in Sunday School, and are handed the microphone. They are already really confident in front of groups, and my younger one is always picked for a lead role in plays at school, likely because of her self confidence in front of groups. They won’t likely ever feel that sense of trepidation that I still feel to this day.

  44. RuthM says:

    Trent, this was a very useful post with lots of tips & tricks that anyone can use to help out with the confidence (particularly important when trying to find a job these days)!! Thought you might be interested to know that one of the restaurants in our area actually has a mouthwash dispenser, complete with small disposable cups, installed in the restrooms! I’d like to see all restaurants do this.

  45. CathyG says:

    For me, it’s totally different if I am going to do a presentation vs having to meet/mingle in a crowd. I don’t have any problem at all getting up in front of a group, but I can’t walk into a room full of people at all. I am going to try some of the tips for that.

    But I have a question related to the “Hi I’m Trent Hamm” idea. My biggest problem in mingling is that I have a terrible memory for names and faces. In most of my group situations, the room contains both total strangers AND a number of people that I have met in the past, but probably in a different context. I recognize a lot of faces, but I can’t remember names. I get terrified that I have already met that person before, but I can’t remember when/where/why, so I get totally tongue-tied and it’s a mess.

    So I walk right up and say “Hi I am CathyG” and their response is a quizzical look and an “I know, we worked on project X last year” and now I still don’t remember their name? Do I just make a light comment about the fact that I can’t hold onto names and just ask them? Do I take photos of every person I ever meet and use them as flashcards every night to practice?

    Getting up in front of a crowd is much easier.

  46. Ellen Delap says:

    Confidence is the ultimate currency in life. It can’t be bought but it can be cultivated. Thanks for all the GREAT ideas on how!

  47. Karen J says:

    #30 CathyG

    I read a fantastic book called “The Fine Art of Small Talk” by Debra Fine. This book covers situtations like you decribed.

  48. Kim says:

    I used to go to training seminars with some frequency and because I worked in a small office, was often there alone, a situation that is very awkward for me. Upon realizing that I was going to spend yet another awkward day speaking to no one and eating a crappy lunch by myself at yet another hotel restaurant, I thought, “What would Jana do?” Jana is a friend of mine who is so friendly and engaging that she puts others at ease in awkward social situations. I walked in telling myself, “you’re Jana” and if I figured Jana would do it that is what I did. I walked up to people and introduced myself with a big smile on my face and asked about themselves. It felt strange for the first five minutes or so, but it worked so well that it began to feel natural. And I ate lunch with a delightful woman who was also attending the seminar alone.

    I’ve used this trick for years now. For me, it places me in the position of hostess in my own head, a place that is very comfortable for me. In my own head, in a place I would not tell most people about, this is now MY room, MY event and it is MY job to make as many people engaged and comfortable as possible. Ordinarily I am only comfortable that same way in my own home or in my own office, places which are super comfortable for me. I’ve simply found a way to bring that comfort level with me.

    A warm, “so nice to meet you” goes a long way, and since I’ve practiced being Jana, it’s now true. By the way, until I started mimicking Jana, I was unaware that she also feels awkward in social situations with strangers. I’ve known her my whole life and didn’t know that because of the way she handles it.

  49. bronxilla says:

    One of the best books I’ve read on public speaking is Be Heard Now, by Lee Glickstein. Glicktein talks about Relational Presence or the idea that a speker can connect in a relaxed manner on a one-to-one basis in any speaking situation. Achieving this ability involves particularly using what Glickstein calls “soft eyes”, to look into someone’s eye in an accepting and non-threatening way, assuming the acceptance of yourself by the other. This short description does not do justice to the work. It is something that I applied myslef and found very effective.

  50. DONNA says:

    I think this was a great post! I’m always afraid that my nervousness shows and tend to fade into the background. I’ll definitely try some of the suggestions– but not the flask!!

  51. Jeff S. says:

    Trent,

    I lurk here a lot, but this is a clear, direct post with application to almost everyone’s daily life. I will benefit from it immensely, and hope to apply several of the points starting immediately. Thanks for the help!

  52. verbose says:

    CathyG, same problem!! I have no issue with presentations or even singing on stage, but I can’t handle mingling. I just can’t remember names and faces. It’s odd because I have a fantastic memory for everything else.

    I often find myself introducing myself to someone more than once. And there are people who seem to know me that I have no memory of whatsoever.

    I try to explain to some people that I have a poor memory for names and faces. But some people seem to be offended by my admission that, despite my best efforts, I will probably forget them. I guess I can see how that could be off-putting.

    It helps immensely to have people labeled with their written names, whether by name tag, office nameplate, or online profile. In that case, I often remember the names later even without the written information being present. But I think it would be rude to carry around a set of name tags and slap them on people I’ve just met who are not already wearing them. Too bad, because it would really help.

  53. Snigdha says:

    Awesome post! Very detailed and very helpful information for a lot of people.

    I am entrepreneur and don’t have stage fear or fear of public speaking, but these tips I could also use to train some people I teach and train as well.

    Thank you for sharing.

  54. Ray says:

    I have to disagree with the entire article Trent.There is no substitute for knowing your stuff backwards, and forwards, and many people fail with the technique that you present. If you cannot eat, drink, and sleep your game then you’re in a world of crap. People admire quality, not tricikery. In the end you’re gonna get exposed if you cannot walk the walk.

  55. Duane says:

    CathyG, I work in an environment where I see many different people throughout the day, but I some people regularly every week. I have often found that if I can’t recall their name, I will act like I’m thinking really hard for a second or two, then make an annoyed face and ask for their name. This gives the impression that I know their face, but I simply can’t recall their name – and I’m annoyed with myself for it. Most people will give a knowing smile and tell me their name. Just remember that many people have the same problem, and it’s not just you.

  56. jana says:

    Trent,
    Great article-I need to improve my posture so I’m going to give #2 a try!

  57. Wayward says:

    I like the duct tape idea but Sweetie will think I’m crazy if I ask him to tape me up.

    As for #6–nothing calms me quite as much as holding my cat, but he wouldn’t fit easily (or quietly, I imagine) in my pocket.

  58. Heather says:

    The title seems wordy to me. Dropping the last 3 words would make it more powerful.

  59. slccom says:

    Cathy and Verbose, it sounds like you both have prosopagnosia. Also known as face-blindness, there is information online about it and support groups.
    I bet you both get lost a lot, too. Search for these terms and you’ll find others posting, and you’ll say, “Yea! Me too!”

    I tell people that I have prosopagnosia, usually using face-blind, and explain that I won’t recognize them unless we spend a lot of time or I encounter them frequently. Once I have their face I can sometimes remember their name. I have had hour-long conversations without once using their name! But I do remember things about them. Like, if they have an illness, or a family member died. (Interestingly, I can remember their dog and its name without any trouble! I’ll say “dog’s name” mommy and my husband will know who I am talking about.

    I haven’t had any problems with people being rude about my disability. I also need to lip-read due to my hearing loss, and everyone thinks I am a fabulous listener!

  60. Chetan says:

    I don’t disagree with this post, but I don’t agree completely. In my opinion, in most cases, if the topic being talked about is something that you don’t understand, trying to appear confident may make you a laughing stock instead. It would be much better to listen keenly about stuff you’re not completely knowledgeable about and admit to your lack of knowledge if asked. I feel that people respect you much more for telling the truth this way (or that may be just me).

    For example, in a discussion at our Bank, we were talking about the problems with SWIFT (inter-bank) messaging. About 10 minutes into the conversation (which was completely technical), this highly “confident” looking Project Manager stood up and asked “But is SWIFT really that swift?” and made a fool of herself.

    Also, the “Hi! I’m Trent Hamm” won’t work at formal meetings where people are also going to be interested in your participation in the topic at hand – in addition to your name. But it would work great at general informal gatherings, though.

    Nice post – even if it’s not entirely related to frugality.

  61. Evita says:

    This GREAT post is sure to be of help to all of us introverts! thanks Trent!

  62. Damester says:

    I, too, hate mingling and mixing without a set purpose. It’s easier for business as I have something in common. Socially, ugh.

    One of the things that helps is to forget about myself and focus on the event, activity and the people. Look for small, easy ways to comment on something and go from there.

    As for questions, you need to keep it simple. A lot of people, surprisingly, are put off by questions.

    Simple, easy, questions are best and questions should be based on ascertaining any mutual interests, commenting on event/activity, etc. (avoid heavy duty stuff like religion and politics!)

    The more you focus on others, are genuinely sincere in your interests and act naturally, the better.

    The bottom line: Some people will always excel at this glad-handing (as I refer to it), while others will not.

    I agree that you can do things to help you focus and distract yourself from your fear, anxiety, etc. But I do not think you can fake confidence.

    People who really have it smell the phony self-confidence a mile off. And many times it can come off as desperation.

    You can accept that you aren’t easy in certain situations and do your best. People you’d want to know can respect that.

    Be sincere. Be professional. Look them in the eye and pay attention. Giving full attention to someone (without a stalking level!) is enough to break the ice with most people.

    Most of all, use your best manners.

    In this day and age, that alone will make you stand out to most people.

    The people you want to know won’t expect you to be perfect but will always appreciate real sincerity.

    Faking it…not always the answer.

  63. Manos says:

    No 7. Really, my good man, have you never seen a James Bond film?

  64. Mike S. @ Your Personal Finance Source says:

    Great tips! I agree that it’s especially important to keep up on current events and news because nothing can be worse than a dull and quiet conversation. Also, I think it’s great that you point out “looking down” as a no-no when speaking with others. I know almost everyone does this (myself included) and it’s something to to be conscious of.

    -Mike S.

  65. Kaizan says:

    Great post!

    Another thing people often struggle with, is what to do with their hands. It’s the reason why people clench drinks at parties. Putting your hands in your pockets can also send a signal of low confidence. Ideally your hands should be by your sides, but most people find it hard to do this.

    Two tips for holding your hands by your sides are:
    1. Hold them by your side as if you are holding two heavy bags of groceries (this really works!)
    OR
    2. Hold them by your side, but touch each of your thumbs lightly against the corresponding middle finger. Also works like a charm, but requires more practice than 1

  66. JG says:

    Thank you very much for the tips, I like them all, although the eye level tip was especially good, closely followed by the eye color trick,

    apart from having a flask, I think simply drinking while your doing something relays how relaxed you are, and only confident people are relaxed in stressful situations.

    but again thank you very much.

  67. Reema Ramnarine says:

    This article is quite accurate. Take it or leave it the facts are the same. Although there are other ways to exert the same level of authority – these will work for you. I recently discovered some of it on my own, and realised a major change in the way my Manager and my staff approach me. Even the senior team has openly applauded me.
    Try this before you create any barriers.

  68. verbose says:

    I’ve read about face blindness before, but thought I couldn’t possibly have it. Obviously, if I do, it’s not complete. However, I went to a site with a test for it. The test had two phases. First, you look at a single face, then pick out that face from among others. I felt confident in that phase, though I had to assign words to each face to recognize them, like “chubby cheeks” or “pop eyed.” But I totally failed the second phase of the test, which was to memorize six faces, and then pick out the “known” face from among “strangers.” I had no idea at all. I couldn’t even “try harder” because there was just nothing. My score ended up being below normal.

    Thanks for pointing this out, slccom. I’ll have to look into it more.

  69. Great tips, but I’ll have to take your word about #2. Too much hair back there for duct tape, though I’ve never heard “you in the sweater, out of the pool!” I especially liked the eye color trick.

  70. David says:

    Some useful tips – but what you will find is that almost all confident people still get nervous and anxious. They just don’t let that stop them and have the courage to act.

  71. “the person that appears confident is often not as confident as they appear.” VERY true! People tell me that I appear confident and calm onstage, but the reality is I’m sweating up a storm, my bowels are doing the rumba, and my head is a warzone!
    If I could calm down, I might remember my lines better!

  72. Jen says:

    These are GREAT! The duct tape one is brilliant! I’m going to print this and keep it in a file somewhere!

  73. Anjo says:

    Thanks for this great article! I’ve always been told that I don’t look confident enough. I’m going to try out these tips and see how they work out for me.

  74. bill says:

    I like your tips, and I have an illustration for you of the ‘ask a question’ one. Last night, I watched several Youtube videos of an Irish comic named Dara Ó Briain. As part of his routine, he’ll talk to people, looking for funny things to draw out of them or observe about them. I thought ‘wow, that takes guts’ – and it does, but I realized after a while that for every one, he did the same thing every time – asking what they did for a living, asking something unusual about it (he might ask a librarian ‘whats the heaviest book you’ve ever lifted?). It made them *think*, and gave him time to think things over. Pretty damned effective.

  75. Great, useful tips, Trent. You had me there with the flask… ;o)
    Fake it ’til you make it really does work when it comes to confidence. An alternative to the duct-tape (so creative, tho!) for posture is to imagine a fishing line invisibly stretching from your spine, through the top of your head, to the ceiling. Every few minutes, check your ‘line’ and tighten it up. Ballroom dancers practice this centering and posture trick.

  76. Bob Rogers says:

    JOIN TOASTMASTERS!!! I cannot stress this enough.

    The organization was started by some Californian businessmen to help with presentations.

    85 years later this organization helps people in over 80 countries master Communication and Leadership skills. Anyone in business or climbing the corporate ladder should regard this training as an investment in their future just the same as an MBA would be.

    After a couple of years you do not have to act confident, you will be.

    Toastmasters.Org

  77. Carrie says:

    Nice list of tips, very helpful.You really had me going on the flask one though. I was a little worried about what was going to be in the flask! I did not expect mouthwash, great suggestion.

  78. miriam says:

    amazing tips, thank you for sharing! I am confident in front of groups but the second face of minglingtalk is difficult so this was a real gem… for those heary guys out there: if you want to give it a try why not have your wife or girlfriend shave your back in the areas you put tape? I have done that on my husband the times he needed a bandaid here and there to aviod the painful pulling of hair and he really apprecciate it – it DOES grow back…

  79. MIke Ferguson says:

    Thanks for including my picture in your blog! I am the one on the left.
    Great tips by the way. I have presented internationally for over 22 years to audiences from 10 to 4000 and I still get nervous. I haven’t used duck tape but I like the mouth wash idea. Also if using slides, use pictures and not text. I always check the news and try a little humor associated with the news, it can be quite effective. I also always assume someone in the audience knows more than me. That keeps you respecting you audience at all times.

    Best Regards
    Mike Ferguson
    http://www.intelligentbusiness.co.uk

  80. Julia in UK says:

    Trent, these tips are excellent and I can’t wait to try them out. Thank you.

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