On presenting with confidence. Learn how to create a compelling presentation, then present it with confidence. Tips for your body language (posture, feet, hands), remembering to pause, projecting strength, warmth, authenticity and passion, and sticking to your one key message.



Andrew Musselman

Dr. Andrea Wojnicki & Andrew Musselman
Dr. Andrea Wojnicki & Andrew Musselman

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Dr. Andrea Wojnicki:So you said that nine out of 10 people are really concerned about presenting with confidence. And I have to tell you that I’ve asked many of my friends and colleagues, what to ask you about how to give a compelling presentation and 100% of them, the first thing that they said was, how to exude confidence. So actually how to feel confident, but then also how to demonstrate confidence. Do you have any pointers for the listeners on presenting with confidence?

Andrew Musselman: I do. The first thing that I like to say to people – you just said 100% of your listeners said they want us to talk about this. That’s something itself that needs to be talked about! We should pause and recognize that that when people feel like, I have a debilitating fear of this I don’t like getting up onstage, well,  you’re in very good company.


AM: The majority of the population does not like this. It’s that old Jerry Seinfeld joke, right, that that most people would rather be in the casket at a funeral than delivering the eulogy. So I think that’s worth people remembering. That this is not novel. This is very common when it comes to presenting with confidence. Again, pausing is huge because what pausing allows you to do, is it allows you to breathe and center yourself. It gives you time to think about what you’re what you’re going to say.You know, for a lot of people, the fear in pausing is, I’m going to look like I don’t know what I’m talking about. And the opposite is true. When a speaker is able to pause in front of an audience, they draw the attention right in towards them

AW: true. It’s magnetic and  the cadence just changes.

AM: Right

AW: and people go, what?

AM: Exactly. And if somebody is able to pause, you just they look like they own the space. So that’s a huge one. I also would say, you know, for those who suffer from a big fear of this practice, there’s nothing that is going to improve your confidence more than practice. That is the number one thing. The French the word for rehearsal in the theater is repetition, right?

AW:I didn’t know that.

AM: just for the sheer sake of repeating – and that is something I would definitely advocate. I am a huge fan of Amy Cuddy’sresearch on this. So if any of your listeners haven’t seen Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk,

AW:yes, I’ve mentioned her a few times. But they may have missed those.

AM: There you go. And her whole thing is that if you practice projecting confidence, which you can do, by the way you stand the way you speak, the way you breathe, and we can talk about specifics on that. But if you practice projecting confidence, it’s going to make you feel more confident, it’s going to change your psychology around all of this. The thing that I love that she says is, when speaking we should focus less on the impression that we’re making on other people and more on the impression that we’re making on ourselves. And that’s huge. You know, if you can get up there and her expression is, fake it till you become it. You just pretend you’re confident and pretty soon you’ll start feeling confident.

AW:Yes, I believe that. I believe that, and I know from doing some research on presenting with confidence that, that she’s been highly criticized for that but I, I absolutely believe it because even physiologically, never mind mentally, your body is learning it.

AM: Yes. I think it’s great. I think as an actor, I mean, you go backstage, there’s nobody… by the way, this is the other thing. There’s nobody who doesn’t feel nervous getting up in front of an audience, right? I have been in shows, you know, sometimes actors perform a show 50 or 100 times. And on that 100th performance, before walking out on that stage, you’re still nervous. And if you’re not getting nervous, you should worry because a might be a psychopath and be you might not really be caring about what’s going to happen. So that’s a huge thing is that everybody gets nervous.

But if you see actors before a show, what they are doing is they are amping their energy up. And that’s another huge thing in terms of presenting with confidence that if you can get some energy going in your body, whether it’s shaking out your hands jumping up and down, going for a walk around the block, that is going to stand you in good stead.

I got asked at a 30th wedding anniversary party to deliver a speech from Shakespeare. So I said yes. And the whole time I’m sitting at the table and I’m kind of, you know, with my husband and with a friend and another friend, and they kept turning to me, are you okay? And what I did, I got up and I went into the bathroom, and I stood in the stall and I just quietly, to myself, rehearsed the first few lines. I shook my hands out, I expanded my upper body, I did some deep breathing.

So I tell that story because you do what you got to do. And don’t ignore those nerves but really thinking of meeting that challenge physically, which is what Amy Cuddy advocates, how are you standing? How are you breathing? And also what’s the energy that’s going through your body? I think that’s a great way to combat those nerves.

AW:Well, it’s like warming up before an athletic performance. I just keep thinking that, right?

AM: Yes, absolutely. If that you would never walk on to a tennis court or a basketball court or somebody without stretching, spending some time getting energized, warming up.

AW:I interviewed an opera singer who told us about what he does to warm up his vocal cords before he goes to do a performance. So it’s –  you have to get into the zone.

AM: Yes. And I bet you I mean, I don’t know how long an opera singers warm up is, but I bet you the first 25-30% of it is breathing.

AW:Yes, you know, we talked a lot about breathing. It’s huge.

AM: So I also think that I don’t mind the word confident, but I don’t like giving that advice to people saying just get up there and be confident because it’s kind of like telling a drowning person to relax.Hey, I would love to but I just don’t feel like that’s within my power right now. But I think when it comes to your voice, if you think of a strong, confident voice, a rich voice, as opposed to a loud voice, because you don’t want to just sound like you’re shouting at the audience. But if you think, Hey, I’m going to speak this, like, I mean it, that is going to be another thing that’s going to just make you feel more confident and more empowered. So I think that’s a big, big part of handling the nerves.

AW:So, so related to presenting with confidence. Can we move into body language? They’re obviously related. And I know some people wonder, how should I stand? Should I stay behind the podium? Should I pick up the microphone and walk around and what do I do with my hands? Do you have any guidance there?

AM: Yes. So if we go back to this idea of strength and warm, the first thing in terms of how you stand, the reality is confident people take up space. But there’s an interesting thing with this stuff. Strength and warm framework that researchers call the hydraulic effect. Which basically means if you try to project one of those things, it’s going to come at the expense of the other one. Oh, well, so you try and really be strong, you’re going to diminish your warm.

AW:So as people assume they’re inversely correlated until you give them evidence?

AM: I think the great example of that if you say to somebody stand confidently, and they puff up their chest and they raise their chin and they tense their entire upper body. You know, you could say, well, yes, that is confident, but there’s zero warmth there. Right? So when it comes to your posture and how to stand, I think the two things to think of is I always tell people, imagine if you have a string that’s pulling you up, so that you’re naturally expanding, you want to think of an expansive posture, rather than creating any kind of tension and tension. It doesn’t serve you as a speaker, but it also looks aggressive. So that is to be avoided. So taking up space, but in a natural, expansive kind of way.

The other thing I would say to think about your posture is your feet should be firmly planted- really, really firmly planted. And I don’t mean that you’re not allowed to move. But something you’ll see a lot of times of speakers is that it’s almost like they got a little bit of a dance going on now they’re shuffling back and forth. It’s because that’s where their nervous energy is going. It’s Oh, yes, feet. Again, thinking of our primal instincts, how that looks to us. It looks shifty. You think the person’s being deceptive, you know. So I would say thinking of your feet nice and firmly planted, and if you are going to move, move with purpose, move with conviction.

AW:That’s great advice. I’ve never heard that. I’m going to be watching for that. You know, in myself and others.

AM: Yes. The best thing that you can think of in terms of physical stuff, I believe, is control and purposeful. You want your gestures, your movement to all look like it’s a choice.

AW:Do we need to rehearse or practice your gestures?

AM:  Maybe yes. It’s a little bit tricky because sometimes when you tell people to rehearse their gestures, and I’m going to talk about a very common technique in a moment, when you tell people to work with these techniques, the dangerous is that it looks forced. But I think if you become conscious of your gestures, and you become conscious of trying to be controlled and purposeful, the more you practice it, the more second nature it will become.

So in terms of that age old question of what do you do with your hands? The first answer is use them. The reason that we gesture I mean, first of all, it makes us look animated makes us look dynamic. But it also goes back again to these survival instincts. You’re showing the listeners, no tools, no weapons.

AW:That’s true, empty hand. That’s true.

AM:That’s the reason that we wave, it’s the reason that we shake hands. If a speaker hides their hands, you know, if a speaker holds their hands behind their back, or if you’re at a boardroom table, and you’re speaking and your hands are under the table,

AW:even at a dining room table, I’ve heard you should actually have your hands politely on the table.

AM: That doesn’t surprise me actually.

AW:Otherwise it makes people feel like what are you hiding?

AM: Yes, it makes them feel at ease. Exactly. So you want to be gestured. But the same thing again, much like I was saying about the feet. The trouble is when the nervous energy gets into the hands and the gestures become repetitive, or sort of nonsense, when the gestures are just sort of happening, and the speaker has no control over them. So a technique that I advocate, again, this is a pretty well known technique, and it’s an old technique, but the prism where you press your fingertips together,


AM: hold your hands. Yes, in a prison out in front of your body. It sounds ludicrous. And every time I talked to clients about this, they’re like, What are you telling me to do that for?What it does though, is it gives your hands a home base. So often, if your hands are just there in front of you, they become disembodied, and you think, what do I do with these things?

Whereas if they’re, they’re in some kind of a home base, and if you don’t like the prism, you can expand it and imagine you’re holding a volleyball. You know, the magic volleyballis what the technique is called. If you give your hands a home base, then you don’t have to worry about them. And you know that any gesture is going to be controlled and purposeful and precise. And when you’ve made that specific gesture, then you can return to your home base.

AW:I love it. It sounds like yoga class, right? Go back to home base.

AM: Yes, tactic that technique of a home based as with your hands, it prevents your hands from having a mind of their own. So in terms of the strength piece of it, a big part of how you can project strength to your listeners is physical control. So I am standing in an energized can way with conviction. I’m gesturing precisely, I’m expansive. So to answer your question about to stand behind the podium or not, it always I think, looks more dynamic, if you get that podium can create a barrier between you and your listeners.

AW:Yes, I agree.

AM: Yes. So I think getting from behind that is a good strategy. If it’s technically possible, like you can walk with a mic.

AM: Yes, if it’s technically possible. And also listen, if you’re somebody who is very nervous about the speech you have to give, you want your notes in front of you. And you have rehearsed a conversational style where you’re going to make eye contact, you’re going to pause, and you think that’s as much as I can do great. Stay behind the podium. Don’t make it too far.

AW:baby steps.

AM: Yes, exactly. Walk before you run. But I do think if it’s technically possible, and if it’s personally possible, walking around the stage looks great. Provided that you walk with energy, with purpose. And, you know, when you get to a different part of the stage, stand there for a bit, stay there, keep your feet still grounded, centered.

AW:That reminded me of when I was working as a faculty member at the University of Toronto, especially if I was teaching in a big auditorium and I had a huge PowerPoint slide in the middle of the stage and I would kind of go from one side to the other and it actually felt really good to move my body on stage instead of standing there and preaching, right?

AM: Yes, and it goes back to that Amy Cuddy stuff that it looks more energized, it looks more dynamic because it is.

AW:So in addition to making you look more energized is gonna make you feel more energized.

AM: Yes, make you feel more empowered. So that’s a good thing.

AW:So when you were talking about the person who maybe isn’t presenting with confidence, and they’re standing behind the podium, and they’re kind of hugging the podium, but they have to, and they’re working on things kind of one thing at a time, it reminded me of another question that I had for you with regards to PowerPoint slides. And that is, if you’re in a technical presentation, I’m thinking back to your finance guy that you were consulting to. And there’s a slide with data on it that they have to read, or if, for example, it’s a legal presentation, and there’s something that a paragraph that the audience needs to read, how do you choreograph that? Do you read it to them?

AM: So I would say it depends. Depends on what it is, if it’s a quote, I would say always read it. But just to take a step back, that what you do. You want to think about what you’re saying with those slides, especially technical data driven slides. So you make the point first, then display the visual. It’s about exercising control over the audience’s focus. Because the minute you display words on the screen, the listeners are going to stop listening to you. They’re going to just be reading that and nobody can read and listen at the same time, right?

AW:That’s what I keep hearing and reading.

AM: Yes. So what I would say is, if you have, let’s go to finance for a second. If you have charts and graphs and numbers, tell us what we need to know. Then display that visual. And give us a moment to look at the visual when you’re not speaking. In terms of controlling listeners focus, if you’re silent in the case of presenting data, turn and look at the slide. Because if you turn and look at the slide, again, it controls focus, it tells your listeners This is where you look now.

So again, you’re giving yourself that control and that agency in terms of what to read and what not to read. I would say just use your judgment, your intuition. If it’s a big long legal paragraph, maybe that’s something that you want your listeners to read. Because what’s the point of you reading it out loud to them? I would say, the longer the text, the less likely you would want to read it.

AW:That’s a good rule.

AM: Probably, again, though. If you’re asking your listeners to read something, turn, look at the screen and read it, you know, at your slowest, natural reading pace, to make sure that you’re not cutting them off.You’re giving them the time they need to read it. So I would say control the focus.

AW:You’re reminding me now some presentations that I’ve witnessed, where I guess I’m observing as an audience member, but also at a meta level because of what I do. And I see the speakers do that. And they look at the screen and I say, oh, now they’re trying to get us to look at the screen,but it’s effective and the best presenters are actually the ones that I can tell they’re actually reading it,

AM: Right. Mm hmm.Yes, it’s extremely frustrating if a slide gets displayed, and there’s not enough time to read it.

AW:Presumably, it was so important that you had to have it there, right? back to your point from the very beginning.

AM: Yes, it’s there. It’s got to be there for a reason. So I would say yes, the reason to read it along with your listeners, again, it goes back to this idea of the adrenaline that’s going through us when we’re speaking. You’ve got that adrenaline going, you’re not perceiving time accurate. So you want to take that step to read it to just sort of ensure they’ve had enough time to read it and now I can move on.

AW:And to your point about breathing I just thought of this … you can maybe move the mic away from your mouth and do some deep belly breathing while it’s happening and re energize yourself.

AM: Sure. Yes. It’s a moment where the pressures off you.  That reminded me of film acting. It’s like that with acting. There’s a close up of you. So the camera is right in your face and the pressures on and the close up. Anytime you’re not talking, just breathe. Yes. And I said why? And they said well, because if the other guys talking, the camera’s going to be on them. They’re not going to use that shot anyway. So you kind of go Oh, right. Yes. But I thought that was such an amazing performance strategy. What are those moments where I’m allowed to recover? You know, and so I think what you’re saying is excellent. Yes. If you’re turning and reading it, just take a moment to also check in breathe, re energize, and recover.

AW:So the listeners don’t know this. But every time Andrew speaks, I’m like, (heavy breathing).  Just kidding, not at all. Maybe I should have, actually.

AM: She’s doing yoga. Right here in the room while I’m talking.

AW:Yes, yes. I was in Downward Dog over there! All right, before we move on to the five rapid fire questions, is there anything else you want to share with the listeners about providing a compelling message?

AM: I would say, you know, we’ve talked a lot about passion. We’ve talked about projecting strength and warmth and how to be confident when you’re up there. But again, so much of this word comes to the message that you’re sharing that if you take that time to really structure are a cohesive messagereally give your listeners meaning and give them a reason that they should keep listening. I can think of an example actually I worked with a cannabis company. They do cannabis edibles. So that was fascinating to work on as well, because that industry is like the Wild West.

So they were – This is a while ago now – they were going in for an investor pitch. And I was asked to come in and help them rehearse this pitch. And so I listened as they talked a little bit about their company. They talked about how they were founded, they talked about what they were going to do with the money that they were raising, you know, the facility they wanted to build. They talked about the partners who are helping them design the edibles, you know, the part of the food partners, and after a little while I said, I think the problem here is we don’t have a very clear main message.

I started to ask them some questions like, what are your hopes and dreams for this company? You know, beyond making 100 million dollars, what are you really trying to achieve with this and what are you passionate about and all that sort of stuff, and after digging around there, they say Do you know we like to say that we’re creating a product that we would feel comfortable serving to our friends after dinner party? And I said, that’s your main message.

You’re telling me about your facility that you want to build? Why do you need to build that facility? Because you’re creating a product for your friends. So you need to oversee all aspects of production. You’re telling me about the food partners that you’re using? Why are you using those brands? Because they’re brands that you personally engage with, that you trust and that you love? And nothing less than that will do for your friends.


AM:  Why do you need this scientist who controls the dosing? Because you want to be responsible because you’re creating a product for your friends. So when you find that message, and you take the time to connect everything to it, it just really makes it clear for your listeners. This is what I’m supposed to take away from this. And in making it clear, it makes it compelling, right, as I said earlier, we crave meaning. So when you give your listeners that meaning, this means a product that is appropriate for our friends,

AW:as you’re describing that, my head, as you can see is nodding. And I’m imagining the investors doing the same thing around the table. And it’s almost like, not only do you have a focused message, there are one main point at the apex of your triangle. But you’re also in a way telling your story because I’m imagining you, in several months sitting with your friends around the table after a dinner party and sharing this product with them. So I feel like you’ve you’ve checked all the boxes there. And as I’m nodding my head, I’m imagining the investors who are the audience to that message doing the same thing.

AM: Yes, what it comes down to in terms of the storytelling. Again, it’s that hero goal conflict, that the hero in that situation is the company and that might sound arrogant, but as long as your goal is to help other people, we are creating something that will really be great for people.

AW:as long as the goal isn’t self serving, right?

AM: Yes. Once you have that hero with the goal and all of the struggles and against struggles don’t need to be on then we went bankrupt. The struggles are, how can we oversee production? How can we make sure that the dosage is correct? How can we make these tastes excellent. When we feel those struggles that creates suspense, and again, that hero goal struggle framework, it gives us a reason to care. We just think ah, yes, and that’s what that meaning does. It causes us to lean and it causes us to feel emotionally invested in the message.

AW:That’s a great example. All right. Okay, we’re going to move on to the five rapid fire questions. Are you ready?

AM: I am.

AW:Okay. First question. What are your pet peeves?

AM: Bad listening. I hate when people interrupt ,when they lose focus as you’re talking. And I don’t mean the occasional interjections. I mean, like they steamroll over what you’re saying with a completely different point. That’s a huge pet peeve of mine. I don’t like that.

AW:Second question. What type of learner Are you are you visual auditory, kinesthetic, or some other kind of learner?

AM: Definitely auditory. I when I have a problem, or even just when I’m thinking I, I can’t tell you the number of times that I get busted by people in public talking to myself


AM:  all the time. It’s the way that I sort through my ideas. I just talk as though I’m having a conversation, I just speak to myself. And sometimes I’ve been moving my mouth and people kind of go, are you okay? And I say, I’m just saying…

AW: you should just keep earbuds in your ears all the time. Then someone will think that you’re in a conversation.

AM: That’s funny. And part of the problem too, with being an auditory learner and doing what I do. Sometimes I have a tendency to say too much, because it’s, I want to make sure that I have created all of the logical links in my idea. And sometimes listeners don’t need that. So I sometimes have that struggle where people go, yes, I get it. I get it.

AW:I have some advice for you.

AM: Yes?

AW: please just start a podcast.

AM: Oh, I bet.

AW:That’s funny. Okay. Well, I think it’s funny. Good job, Andrea. Question number three, introvert or extrovert?

AM: Both, and as I get older, more and more introverted. And I think, you know, there’s a lot of people who wouldn’t believe that about me.


AM: I think you realize that as you, you know, put a few years on to your to your CV, you realize that being having both is healthy, but I definitely sometimes need to be on my own to regroup and gather my energy. And when I’m doing something like this podcast or if I’m being interviewed or if I’m leading a workshop, or I’m giving a presentation, I really have to focus on working my energy up, and not in a way that’s like where it’s like drudgery. I mean, I love having the energy of performance. But if I don’t work the energy up that way I can tilt into self consciousness.


AM: Yes, people sometimes find a find that hard to believe. But I have that mix of introvert and extrovert for sure.

AW:Oh, I thought you were gonna say because you’re such an extrovert and you’re so energized that you then feel like you don’t need to act that way. But maybe you just really are right in the middle. You’re an ambivert which by the way, most of us are. I asked the question as an either or more to be compelling.

AM: An ambivert. I’ve never heard that. That’s interesting.

AW:Yes, most people are right in the middle. Yes. Number four: communication preference for personal conversations. What’s your go to communication medium?

AM: Texting. Actually, I love, I enjoy texting and for a couple of different things, it’s very efficient. I also find it really fun. And maybe I shouldn’t admit this as a communications coach, but I find emojis hilariously fun.

AW:Me too!

AM: You can be irreverent. So I like texting. I also like face to face.

AW:do you use bitmoji?

AM:  Yes, yes, yes.

AW:And memes?

AM: Yes, memes are a newish thing for me – the last six months.

AW:It’s a little bit addictive.

AM: Yes. Bitmogis. I’m all over. I love it.

AW:Question number five. Is there a podcast, a blog or an email newsletter that you find yourself recommending the most lately?

AM: Yes. It’s called Ask Ronna. And it is a very, very funny, funny podcast. It’s two people, Rhonda Glickman, and Brian Safi, as they would tell their listeners, they’re experts on nothing. They’re have no credentials, but they’re just smart, fun people. And people write in and they give advice. And I find their advice –  it goes from being funny to being very poignant and very sympathetic, which I think is a fascinating. So that that’s a podcast that I’m a big fan of.

AW:I actually have heard of it. I think I may have seen it on iTunes as a recommended one.

AM: Oh, okay. Yes.

AW:Thank you so much, Andrew, for sharing your expertise and your time to help us get out there presenting with confidence. I can tell you, I learned a lot! I’m sure the listeners did as well. So thank you so much.

AM: Well, thank you for having me. It’s been an absolute pleasure. Really enjoyed it.


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