“My job is to talk; your job is to listen. If you finish first, please let me know.” – Harry Herschfield

I’ll never forget it.

This was a national conference featuring the big gun keynoters.

Seth Godin. Tom Peters. Jim Collins. Tim Ferris.

They were all there.

Everyone was on the edge of their seats, listening to every word.

Then, a female CEO of a BILLION dollar company was introduced as the next speaker.

She walked to the center of the stage and stood with her feet together and her hands crossed in the . . . Fig Leaf Position.

Mistake #1.

Standing with your feet together keeps you off-balance and makes you look like you’re teetering and going to fall at any second.

Holding your hands in the Fig leaf Position is a defensive posture that makes you look like you have something to hide.

It pulls your shoulders down and collapses them together which creates a Cower stance that makes you look submissive.

Then, she said softly, in a querulous voice, “I’m so happy to be here today. I was telling my grand-daughter . . .”

Mistake #2.

Whether it’s fair or not, people judge our leadership by the volume and tone of our voice.

A meek voice sends the message you have trouble speaking up for yourself.

A soft voice signals you don’t believe you deserve to be heard.

Those are red flags to anyone deciding whether to hire you, promote you or fund you.

Plus, ending your sentences with upward inflection and speaking in a sing-songy “Valley-Girl” voice makes you seem unsure, hesitant, like you’re seeking approval.

Unfortunately for this CEO (and for the audience because she’s a brilliant leader who is respected by her thousands of employees), the laptops and smart-phones came out within minutes. They had concluded she wasn’t worth listening to.

If you’re speaking to a group of sophisticated entrepreneurs and executives, what can you do differently in the first couple minutes to prove you’re worth their valuable time and mind?

Tip 1. Lose the “I hope you like me” Little Girl Voice.

A coquettish voice will undermine the perception you have the clout to lead a company and carry off a multi-million dollar venture.

Instead, do what TV broadcasters are taught to do their first day on the job.

End your sentences with downward inflection to project a voice of authority.

Try it right now.

Imagine you’re pitching to venture capitalists and they’ve asked, “How much money are you seeking?”

Say, “$500,000” with upward inflection at the end.

Hear how it sounds tentative? Like you tossing it out there and HOPING they say yes?

Now say, “$500,000” with downward inflection at the end.

Hear how it comes across with more certainty? Like this is a justifiable figure you deserve to get?

When presenting, don’t use a conversational tone. It’s too casual.

PROJECT your voice so every single person in the room can hear every single word.

Never, ever force an audience member to have to ask, “Could you please speak up? I can’t hear you.”

The truth is, if people have a hard time hearing you, they often just give up and tune out – or start checking their email.

Don’t risk getting tuned out.

Speak out – loud and clear – and with downward inflection (like your favorite current network news anchor) so you convince people you know what you’re talking about.

Tip 2.

When you get to the center of the stage, plant your feet shoulder width apart and bend your knees slightly so you feel and appear grounded.

This atletic stance helps you feel in your body (vs. in your head).

This more-balanced stance helps you stay “rooted” in one spot so you’re less likely to rock or pace.

Nervous movement patterns distract from your credibility because they give the impression you’re flighty and can’t or won’t hold your ground.

Now, hold your hands out in front of you like you’re holdihg a baskeball. This Basketball Position helps you straighten up and stand tall.

Now, pull your shoulders back and hold your head high.

Aaahh . . .that’s better. Feel how this Tower stance makes you look and feel more confident? It gives you the look of a leader.

As discussed in the previous 3 blogs, if you want decision-makers to CARE, you’ve got to show F.L.A.I.R.

Today’s post was about I = INFLECTION and being IN YOUR BODY.

Check out my previous posts to discover how you can strategically kick-off presentations so everyone in the room is motivated to listen up.

A USA TODAY article entitlted “Idol Outcome Looks Like a Toss-Up” starts with “All season long, American Idol judges have told Lee DeWyze, “Have confidence.”

They like him – arguably more than Crystal Bowersox, whose “indie, coffee house” vibe may not result in the huge sales and fan following that’s their priority.

But the judges keep asking him, “Do you believe you can win this thing?”

The point? Before convincing others; we ourselves must be convinced.

If we don’t think we’ve got what it takes to come out on top, why should other people?

My book What’s Holding You Back: 30 Days to Having the Courage and Confidence to Do What You Want, Meet Whom You Want and Go Where You Want http://amzn.to/aniG4l – (which Jack Canfield says is “a must read for anyone who wants to be more poised, polished and poweful at work, at home, in social settings, at school, and in sports.”)
claims that confidence is the key to just about everything.

Talent’s important. Intelligence is important. Appearance is important.

But we all know smart, talented, attractive people who never fulfill their potential.

Why? Because they’re their own worst critic. Because their doubts get in the way of their success.

If I were coaching Lee right now, I’d suggest that the single best way to give himself confidence for tonight – a night that could set his SerenDestiny in motion – is to mentally prep himself to OWN the stage.

The key to confidence is to TOWER, not cower.

Instead of walking out with his shoulders hunched over, (which leads to a meak, weak posture that keeps us tentative and hesitant) . . . . he needs to lift his shoulders up and roll them back. Aaaah, that feels better already.

Then, instead of clasping his hands in the “cover up” fig-leaf position (which will keep him unsure and insecure and make him want to hide) – it’s better to hold his hands like he’s holding a basketball. This will “open” him up and make him feel more natural and relaxed.

Then, instead of standing with his feet close together (which will keep him off-balance, literally and figuratively); it’s smart to stand with his feet shoulder-width apart – in the athlete’s stance – so he feels “well-grounded.”

Then, in the moments right before his performances, instead of filling his mind with performance-ruining doubts, (“What if I get pitchy and go off-key? What if if forget the words?”) – it’s crucial to mentally pump himself up with determination and gratitude.

It’s important to fill his mind with “I LOVE my audience. I am so GRATEFUL to be here. I am going to take advantage of this opportunity by singing my heart out so I connect with every single person watching and they rise as one into a heartfelt standing ovation.”

If Lee TOWERS instead of cowers, and fills his mind with DETERMINATION rather than doubts, he will enter the “zone” of peak performance and exude the confidence that will result in a win for him and a win for everyone lucky enough to witness his bravura performance.

Who are you pulling for in tonight’s American Idol final?

What’s your advice on how Crystal and Lee can turn panic into poise and perform with confidence?