Category “Confident Behaviors”

How Will Argentine Tango Skills Make You a Better Presenter?

In my Get to the Message Workshop, we experiment using Argentine Tango skills to become more connected and engaged with the audience.

Upright Posture Is Crucial to Look Confident

Just by a person’s stance, each audience member makes a decision on that presenter’s level of confidence. People are told to stand up straight all the time, but there are conflicting views on how to do it. Tango provides clear guidelines on how to stand up straight.

  • Roll your shoulders back so your scapula drops.
  • Bring your ribs together to protect your back.
  • Stand on your big toe mounds and your heel. Why? Standing on your big toe mounds makes you use your inner muscles. Your heel makes you use your hamstrings.
  • Project your sternum forward and upwards all the while keeping your ribs together. This makes you raise your head.

Intentional Walking Is Crucial to Appear in Charge

A presenter must walk and look purposeful, not anxious and unengaged.  Tango shows you how to walk.

  • First, maintain your posture.
  • Second, use your standing leg to move, not your free leg. Walking forward with your weight on your left leg, push the left foot into the floor before moving instead of reaching your right leg forward. Your right leg will follow when you push your left foot into the floor and use your gluteus muscles to walk. Esther Gokhale describes it best. She also sells a wonderful little bean bag to put on your head and practice walking around.

Walk This Way (IHMC Presentation)

Listening Is Crucial to Connect With Your Audience

Certainly a presenter has something to say and has planned very well. But for most executive presentations, success occurs when the presenter can change directions depending on the audience’s reactions to the topic.

How do really good tango dancers look so amazing and so connected? Here’s a secret: one person leads, but then WAITS and LISTENS to feel what the follower does with that lead. If the follower intentionally or unintentionally goes in another direction or does a different type of step than the leader planned, the leader follows the follower. I love how a very seasoned tango leader will go where the follower has chosen to step and improvise. In other words, a seasoned tango leader does not stop the dance and tell the follower, “I did not lead that.”

Likewise, presenters cannot tell an executive that they do not want to discuss something. The presenter follows the executive’s direction—resulting in an engaged executive. The presenter plans a “presentation/dance” but may end up doing the executive’s dance instead. Just as tango leaders adjust to the follower, presenters should adjust to their audience to keep the presentation interesting and the audience engaged.

Again and again, participants in my workshops say they want to engage their audience. But many presenters pay no attention to engagement clues from the audience. Whatever they decided to do before entering the room, they keep going in that direction with this mindset: “I planned to cover this information and I’m going to do it.” Consequently, they do not create a connection with the audience. You cannot have an engaged audience unless you let them participate.

Click here to see an Argentine Tango couple who connect and walk with such amazing ease all the while being on one leg.


Practice upright posture behaviors, walk with your glutes and let your audience guide what you say and how much you say about a topic.

Argentine Tango

How to Motivate Yourself

As you walk up to give a presentation how many of you tell yourself, “I can do this. I will be great.”  You may be thinking you have done yourself a good service to give yourself a pep talk.  It turns out that there is an “effective” way to talk to yourself and that’s not it.

“For example, in one study we found that participants who silently referred to themselves in the second or third person or used their own names while preparing for a five-minute speech were calmer and more confident and performed better on the task than those who referred to themselves using ‘I’ or ‘me.”

How can you apply this in the future?

About to get up to talk, say to yourself, “You will be calm and really engage the audience. You have prepared.”

Worried about a difficult negotiation you are about to have, say to yourself, “Claudyne, you can create a win/win scenario. You know how to listen.”

Feel like your emotions are going to get the best of you, say to yourself, “You have the ability to take charge. You are going to be fine.”

The bottom line is that from the research those who used non-first person self-talk are able to be calmer when presenting and to “get control of their emotions.”

Read the article. It is short and very thought provoking.

Smile Appropriately

How much should you smile when presenting? This depends on the context of your talk.

Don’t smile: If you are presenting some medical research on cancer treatments to a group of patients with cancer, it is not appropriate to smile many times except when you have good news to tell them about a particular treatment.

Smile: If you are presenting the latest fantastic results about a new project and its benefits, then smile to show your excitement about the exceptional results.

Smile sometimes: If you are presenting some positive results and some negative financial results, then smile when discussing the positive results. Don’t smile when explaining the reasons for the negative results.

Women: Don’t smile too much. Audiences perceive a woman smiling all the time as less confident, more unsure or herself, and not as competent as someone who does not smile all the time.

So what is an authentic smile?

  1. Start in positive manner: Find a way to say something when you start that lets you smile.“I know this is a difficult subject, but there are some positive options available. I’m going to be sharing those options and hopefully get us smiling about them.”

    “I’m happy to report that sales are up 10% due to our new product. This is some of the positive news I can report to you.”

    “You look like an audience ready to go. Ready to go to work! And ready to listen to a quick, I promise, analysis of the next steps for this project. This will only take 30 minutes, not 60.”

  2. Include emotional words in your talk. “I’m excited to be with you today.” “This next number will get you smiling.” “I’m happy to be standing in front of you with mostly good news.”
  3. Show images that make people smile. This is a technique that works with some audiences. I remember a client who had the most gorgeous picture of him ziplining down a mountain. He showed that at some meetings and then said, “Today we are going to go down a zipline as we discuss the new product. I know we’re nervous about what to do next, so let’s jump off the mountain and get going.” Everyone smiled.

Smile when making positive comments. Plan those comments into your presentation. Use images if they are appropriate.


Before I present I go into the restroom, look at myself in the mirror, pat my face, and tell myself, “You are going to be great. You have practiced. Go have fun. Smile.” (When no one is around).

A Purposeful Walk Changes the Presentation’s Pace

Changing the energy in the room is an excellent way to keep your audience engaged. Walking and moving around the room is one easy way to move that energy around. Not only does it keep things lively, but it energizes your body and makes you feel confident and in charge.

What are the keys to looking confident when walking?

First, you must take several steps and stop. You cannot pace back and forth.

Second, you have to plan where you will walk so that you do not stand in front of the screen and block the view of your audience.

Third, you have to know your audience and their views on walking when presenting. Walking to the back of the room really changes the energy in the room and keeps everyone awake—but this depends on the room situation and the audience’s expectations.

What walking is not: Walking is not changing your weight from foot to foot in a swaying motion. Walking is not moving forward and backward one or more steps every time you start a new sentence. Walking is not constantly pacing from one side of the room to another.

When to Walk

Change is occurring: You want to discuss a change. You discuss the problems in the past on the left side of the screen. When you start talking about the changes and benefits, you move to the right side of the screen. Practice this technique to increase the impact of your presentation.

To influence audience: Moving closer has the effect of increasing intimacy. It gives the impression that you want to get closer to your audience.

Be conscious of what you are doing.

  • Don’t do all your movements at the same time.
  • When walking, restrain your gestures.
  • When standing still, use larger gestures.

Use walking as another way to change the pace of your talk.

Eye Contact Enables Audience Engagement

Eye contact is essential when you want to look confident and credible. A business presentation should be more like a conversation than a performance. In a conversation you make eye contact.

When you seek eye contact with your audience, you become more believable and credible in Western cultures.

Here are some tips to become an effective “eye contact” presenter.

If you’re too nervous to look in the eyes: Look at the person between the eyebrows. This will give you a start in making eye contact. When you look at someone between the eyebrows, the person experiences you looking in the eyes.

Draw an imaginary triangle: Draw an imaginary inverted triangle on the other person’s face around their eyes and mouth. During the conversation, change your gaze every five to ten seconds from one point on the triangle to another.

End a sentence looking at someone: Train yourself to at least end your sentences looking at someone. Then count to three before you look away. Do not look at the screen, laptop, or your notes when you complete your sentences.

Make some words a cue to look: As you say the word “you” be sure to be looking at someone. This is a must!

Focus your conversation: As you look at one person, imagine there is no one else in the room. The person you are looking at is the most important person right now, and you are giving him or her all of your attention. Then go on to someone else in the room. Each person will feel special.

How to Practice

With people: Practice in meetings.

Alone: Make the objects in the room different people so you get used to ending a sentence looking at the chair, the clock, the screen, etc. Then make sure you complete your sentences looking at objects on both sides of the room. Many presenters tend to look at one side of the room three-fourths of the time. Train yourself not to do this. Be random as you look at people.

All the time: In daily life start looking and talking to one person at a time. Become comfortable doing this. Then when you get up to talk, you will already have the habit.

Pauses Increase Your Executive Presence

Presenters who lose the audience frequently have these two issues.

No pauses: Presenters never pause and stop for silence at the end of a point or at the end of a sentence. This one behavior makes it very hard for an audience to digest what you are saying. You’ll give the appearance that you are hurried, lack confidence, and do not want any questions.

Filler words: Filler words are the byproduct of a speaker never pausing. The speaker keeps going and uses “um” to breathe. Many speakers are shocked when they see the number of “um’s” they say. They were completely unaware of them while presenting.

My Dare to You

I dare you to tape yourself when presenting, giving a webinar, speaking at a meeting, or talking on the phone. Notice when you pause. If you don’t, are these your justified reasons?

“I came from a big family and if I did not keep talking someone else took over.” (You are not talking to your family. You’re in business.)

“I have so much to tell people that I need every second.” (But because you’re going so fast, most people stop listening to you. Maybe, if you told them less and paused to give them a moment to digest what you are saying, they would keep listening.)

Here’s the quick way to fix an “um” problem. This solution enables you to start hearing your “um’s” so you can stop them.

Get help: This is a particular kind of help. Practice your presentation or just start talking and ask someone to make a noise every time you say “um.” You won’t like it, but this is the fastest way I’ve seen people get over this habit. Do this with someone 30 minutes a week and you’ll kick this habit. Or ten minutes a day for two weeks. Why? You will start to hear your “um’s” and, once you hear them, you can stop them.

What you will love once you stop your “um’s” is that you will have more time to relax between thoughts. You will be better at categorizing and talking about what’s important. Your brain will slow down and you can be more present to your audience.

If you just have an issue with pausing, you can have your partner raise a hand every time you could pause at the end of the sentence. Count to three in your head and then start again.

Look Poised and Confident

Do you want to have your audience on your side before you even speak? Then look the part of a confident, in-charge presenter: stand straight, shoulders are back and open, head is free, weight is balanced between both feet. How do you get that “executive presence” look? Your body needs to become it. Two yoga classes or two weight training classes a week will give you a more confident stance.

People see you before you open your mouth. Start now to make sure your body looks the part. Learn more about this picture from Leland Vall who teaches the Alexander Technique. The head goes forward and up in relation to the torso which goes back and up.


Here’s the best way to really see if your slides’ content is organized, they look professional and help tell your story.

Print all your slides, lay all of them out on a table and look at them.

First, look at the content across the slides. Is the content organized or do you have the same ideas on many slides spread throughout the presentation?

Second, look at the slide layouts. Are they varied or do you have 8 charts in a row, 6 different graphics in a row, only slides with text bullets and no graphics?

Third, make sure you have engaging, informative titles that help you tell your story and emphasize your key messages.

Professional-looking slides increase your delivery success in engaging your audience.

Seize the Opportunity

I almost did not seize this opportunity. Several years ago I received a request for a proposal from a Fortune 100 company. In my mind I heard the advice, “You can’t respond to this. You are a sole proprietor. You don’t have consultants all around the country to teach your Get to the Message workshop.”

I called a colleague who had a bigger company and we discussed working together…BUT she told she wanted 1) to bill the company through her business; 2) to have me train her people for free; 3) to see my materials as she did not know what they were like; and 4) to take half the profits. By the time she finished giving me her requirements, I was livid. I hung up and in anger decided to respond on my own. I told myself, “If I am selected, it will be because of my company.”

I was motivated to seize the opportunity by someone talking to me in a very condescending manner. This was a gigantic blessing I realized much later. After the written proposal and the 2 hour presentation, my company Wilder Presentations was selected as their vendor of choice. Now we teach 15-20 classes every year for them around the country using consultants I have trained. In this situation I confess I only seized the opportunity after being put down and feeling very angry.

A year ago I received another request for a proposal from a Fortune 500 company. In my mind I heard, “Are you crazy? You don’t have consultants around the world. You can’t meet their requirements.” This time I decided that I would put in a proposal even if the odds did not seem in my favor. I was asked to come and give a presentation. My company Wilder Presentations was selected as one of their communication and presentation executive coaches. In this situation I seized the opportunity, even when the odds seemed very much against me. I did not have to get angry. I had moved to the next stage of “Going For It!” The saying, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” gave me the courage to put myself in the selection process.

Now I coach myself every week: “What dreams do you have and are you seizing the opportunities that will help you manifest them?” Take some actions today. Don’t prejudge a person or a company that can help you. Don’t wait until you feel irritated about not taking any actions. Make your plan and go for it.

So I wonder with you. What helps you seize the opportunities that may be around the corner or perhaps right in front of you? How can you grab them and immerse yourself in the possibilities?

PS: For those of you who need more presentation practice…what presentation opportunities can you seize?

Alexander Technique for Sitting

Here’s an idea for sitting. Leland has these wonderful images that really show you the different ways people sit. Remember, people watch you all the time. You want to look attentive and in charge. I also find the Alexander Technique has taught me how to relax more of my body more of the time. This helps me “think” clearer.

Alexander Technique for Standing

Recently I did a workshop on how to demonstrate executive presence. I asked the group, “How do you stand up straight?” They said, “Put your shoulders back. Lift up your chest, Push your head back.” I did as they said, and people started laughing. I certainly didn’t look very executive! So what is the right way to stand up straight? There are various ways to answer this question. However, having now studied the Alexander Technique for six months, I believe it offers several guidelines and is an approach that gives you the best results and teaches you not to overuse your body. Two websites will give you a great introduction to the Alexander Technique.

Leland Vall, in New York, at has some great images, including the ones reproduced here. He also has a a book.

If you are really concerned about your back and posture, I suggest you take some Alexander lessons.