If you’re an ambitious entrepreneur, then you’ve undoubtedly read articles to learn about personal branding, how to be more likeable and charismatic — even top leadership skills. It’s true, all of these things are important if you’re professionally driven and have a strong desire to stand out from the crowd.
But as intriguing and alluring as all of it is, I’ve found they essentially come down to the one trait—confidence. Many people assume that confidence is something you’re born with, when in fact, it is something that every one of us has to acquire throughout our life.
Nobody is born confident. But some people do learn how to project confidence quicker than others. Everyone has the potential to be confident, despite what your mind chatter might say. Here are concrete and practical ways you can project confidence in your professional, and even social, life.
How to Look Confident in Business
Looking confident in business is all about choosing the right attire. When people see you walking down the street you want them to immediately see you as somebody with certainty and self-assurance. Not someone who appears disheveled and can’t lead a business meeting.
Not many people realize this, but you do have control over how much confidence you project by carefully choosing the right clothing. First, start with colors and styles that make you look confident. Here are a couple of tips:
- Darker colors project more authority. That’s why you’ll typically see politicians, bankers, lawyers and other high-powered individuals dressed in a charcoal, navy, or black suit.
- Formality also communicates authority. That’s why you’ll often have more trust in a banker if he or she is wearing a suit rather than a t-shirt and flip-flops.
To create a confident, professional look for your own wardrobe, you don’t have to dress head to toe in black or wear a three-piece suit. But you can incorporate a touch of a darker color and subtle formality to what you usually wear. For instance, you can easily add darker colors to your outfit with a tailored jacket, pants, or even accessories.
If you work in a casual industry where jeans are preferred, choose a darker pair of jeans to achieve a more authoritative look. For formality, watch what others typically wear in the office and dress one notch above everyone else. So, if you’ve created a company culture where it is okay to wear jeans to work, wear a pair of chinos or dress pants instead.
Whether we like it or not, we are subconsciously influenced by the clothes other people wear. So, the next time you put together an outfit, think about the opinion you want others to have of you and create a look that will send that exact message.
How to Act Confident in Business
Your body language is the second element others will notice, right after your attire. To communicate confidence in professional settings, your body language should say, “I am strong and powerful.” If you’re not familiar with Amy Cuddy’s TEDx Talk, I urge you to watch it and get familiar with her research and try out a few of her power poses.
If you want to take your mastery of body language one step further, then here are few more tips:
- Confident body language always starts with your posture. So, when you’re sitting or standing, make sure your shoulders are pushed back but relaxed, and your stomach is tight.
- Keep your gaze level high when you’re walking and be sure to maintain eye contact when you’re talking. In both cases, you’re revealing your neck which is the most vulnerable part of your body.
Body language contributes to around 93% of our communication. So, even if you have put together an ultra confident outfit, if your body language doesn’t speak “confidence”, other people around you will not see you as somebody who is confident.
How to Sound Confident in Business
Adapting your voice to sound confident is the last element you need to work on to look, act and sound confident in business. Imagine you’re waiting for a business meeting to start. You see the presenter walk into the room in an impeccable suit with strong, powerful posture. He puts down his papers and starts addressing the room. But instead of a clear, loud voice that commands everybody’s attention, you hear a quiet voice, with a few mumbles and “Um …”
Your voice is the final touch necessary to solidify a confident image. Rather than the words you use, it’s more about the volume, tone, and clarity of what you are saying. To get started, use these tips:
- Increase your volume by drawing lots of air into your lungs. When you breath in deeper you can push more air out of your lungs which will increase the volume of your voice.
- Lower your tone just a little to command authority. There’s a reason parents use this technique when reprimanding their children – it works.
- Enunciate your words so you speak with clarity. When your words are clearly understood, your message is, too.
If you follow these tips to look, act and sound confident in business, you’ll be able to project confidence, and be seen as somebody who has executive presence and leadership potential.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Kara Ronin is the founder of Executive Impressions and the creator of the cutting edge online program, “Look, Act and Sound Like a Confident Business Woman!”. Sign up for Kara’s free formula, “5 Ways You Can Feel More Confident This Week”, where you’ll also get access to her weekly advice, tips and strategies for a successful international career and a fabulous life! Connect with @execimpressions on Twitter.