by Stella Fayman on October 8, 2012
The other day, I watched this fabulously inspiring TED Talk by sociologist Amy Cuddy. I highly recommend watching it, but just in case you don’t have time, the gist is that mimicking powerful body language leads to actually feeling more powerful. This can influence your perception of yourself and others’ perception of you. In stressful situations such as job interviews where body language can determine someone’s split second first impression of you, submissive body language can make you appear less powerful and competent.
Applied to entrepreneurship, this can go a long way. While watching this Ted Talk, I was nodding my head the entire time because to be successful, or more importantly, to appear to be successful requires a high degree of confidence. When I entered the startup world as a 22 year old college grad, I had no idea what I was doing. Joining my first startup, I had to talk to old school business owners and convince them they should compare their payment processors online. I learned pretty quickly that unless I projected the confidence and knowledge of a 40 year old payments veteran, I would not be taken seriously.
Similarly, the first time I pitched my startup, I had to somehow recall great orators of generations past in order to appear somewhat coherent. I took deep breaths and pretended I was someone else way more comfortable (and competent) than my 22 year old self. This technique ALWAYS worked: somehow people thought I was a good public speaker, and I got invited to participate on many panels and to give many talks. Once I showed up to a conference for college students as the keynote speaker and the registration people did a double take when they found out I was doing the keynote (they assumed I was just another attendee).
What’s the takeaway here? Investors, potential customers, basically anyone judging the entrepreneur or the company wants to feel that they will be safe in bestowing trust. They want to know you’ll be around for a while and that you know what you’re doing. Appearing confident in all forms of communication will go a long with with all parties. If you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s always better to say “That’s a great question! I’d love to take a look at my data and give you an answer tomorrow,” rather than fumbling, looking defeated and coming up with a half ass answer.
Even if you don’t have the confidence of a celebrity, you can always fake it. Fake it while you pitch…fake it while you network, and soon enough you’ll discover you had that confidence in you all along.