It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It

I was teaching a class at Northeastern last week on Sales and Building Champions, and a student came up to me afterward with an interesting question. She looked at me and asked “How did you learn to speak with such confidence? Do you have any tips?” My response to her was simple. It was that confidence comes from believing in what you have to say. If you believe in what you say, and deliver your message with passion, your audience will believe it as well. On the contrary, if you don’t truly believe in yourself or your message, how do you expect the audience to?

I’ve luckily had some great mentors over the years who have helped me get better at public speaking and presenting. Not very long ago, I had to present to a C-level exec at a Fortune500 company and I admittedly was pretty nervous about the presentation. I thought to myself, “What value can a 26-year-old sales guy add to a C-level exec who has more years of experience in his field than I’ve been alive?” When I told my mentor about this, he gave me some great advice that really stuck with me.

“At the end of the day, they’re no better than you. They’re human beings with opinions, just like you and everyone else. The fact that they’re sitting across the table from you means that they respect you enough to give you their time and they feel like you can add value. Now, you have to respect yourself enough to deliver your message with confidence”.

That piece of advice really resonated with me, and it’s something I think back to whenever I feel a bit nervous about a presentation. Whether it’s speaking to an audience of 500+ people, teaching a class or pitching someone really “important”, as long as you deliver your message with confidence and conviction, the audience will appreciate your point of view. They may not necessarily agree with it, but they will at least leave thinking about your point of view.

This skill is particularly relevant if you work at a startup in an undefined market. No one has heard of your point of view before, so you’ll need to truly believe in your point of view so your audience can believe it.

All in all, next time you feel intimidated talking to someone because of their title or age, just remember that they’re no better than you and that your opinion is just as valid as theirs.