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Have you ever listened to a presentation or speech, where the speaker is clearly not confident in themselves? It’s very awkward. Listeners and audience members can sense confidence almost better than sharks can smell blood. Confidence, or a lack thereof, bleeds out and is easily measured during a speech. It makes the audience restless, and they usually have trouble focusing on the content.

Business professionals, public speakers, and seasoned presenters all sometimes fall prey to thinking the same thing. The lie they believe is that their material isn’t “good enough,” or since they are not Winston Churchill, they are not a “good” presenter. This breeds a sense of failure and the next speech is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you can find and exude confidence while speaking, you can learn how to be confident in almost any situation.

The audience cannot usually differentiate between a speaker who is faking confidence and one who is really confident. Why? Because all they see is a confident speaker.

The Impostor

Ferdinand Waldo Demara was born in 1921. His description on Google lists him as an “impostor.” If you ever want a real trip, go read his wiki page. He successfully impersonated dozens of people throughout his lifetime. Now, by “impersonate” I don’t mean dress up foolery.

Read this excerpt from his bio:

“…Demara became acquainted with a young doctor named Joseph C. Cyr. That led to his most famous exploit, in which he masqueraded as Cyr, working as a trauma surgeon aboard HMCS Cayuga, a Royal Canadian Navy destroyer, during the Korean War. He managed to improvise successful major surgeries and fend off infection with generous amounts of penicillin. His most notable surgical practices were performed on some sixteen Korean combat casualties who were loaded onto the Cayuga. All eyes turned to Demara, the only “surgeon” on board, as it became obvious that several of the casualties would require major surgery or certainly die. After ordering personnel to transport these variously injured patients into the ship’s operating room and prep them for surgery, Demara disappeared to his room with a textbook on general surgery and proceeded to speed-read the various surgeries he was now forced to perform, including major chest surgery. None of the casualties died as a result of Demara’s surgeries.”

Later, you learn that Demara also had photographic memory and genius level IQ. But more important, as Demara himself said in an interview, are his two cardinal rules:

1) The burden of proof is on the accuser, and

2) When in danger, attack.

By sheer projection of confidence, Demara would subvert and fool anyone who had almost found him out. He projected that he knew what he was doing, and everyone around him was fooled. Demara lived a life of impersonation and successfully mimicked dozens of individuals almost perfectly.

This leads us back where we started. You don’t have to feel confident as a speaker for your audience and judge to think you are confident about your subject or position. If you act confident, most people will believe you are (at least for the most part–it’s up to you to sell it).

One of my old debate coaches told me a tactic you can use to help bolster your confidence. When you are at the podium, or table, or lectern, think to yourself, “I own this,” and, “the audience needs to hear what I have to say.” It sounds really simple, but purposefully and mentally hyping yourself can actually stimulate the real thing and fend off the bad mistakes associated with a speaker who lacks confidence. Such a simple tool has served me well time and time again throughout my journey in public speaking, college debating, and professional coaching.

So here is the conclusion. Genuine confidence is the best, most healthy kind. However, most public presenters will tell you that nervousness and sweaty palms aren’t guaranteed to go away just because you are a confident speaker. The audience cannot usually tell between a speaker who is faking confidence and one who is really confident. Why? Because all they see is a confident speaker.

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