I often get asked how to feel more confident in meetings and presentations at work. I'm shocked how little confidence even high achievers or highly educated professionals have when it comes to articulating themselves clearly in meetings and presentations.
Not having confidence can leave you frustrated at the end of a meeting or discussion – you wish you’d landed your point better; you didn’t get the next steps or outcomes you were looking for; and you know you could have expressed yourself better. We all have times our confidence can be a little shaky, especially in high pressure situations.
When I first moved into my finance corporate role from medicine, it took me time to find a way to more quickly feel confident and prepared ahead of meetings and presentations. I ended up employing a simple technique that I still use to this day.
The KFC technique. And no, it has nothing to do with fried chicken, Colonel Saunders or any sort of secret recipe.
This KFC stands for: Know; Feel; and commit.
In my last corporate finance job, I used to travel up and down the country with my boss and watched him in action. I had the privilege of seeing him behind the scenes. He would absolutely crush it when he came to his meetings and his presentations. He'd be cool and calm and appear entirely professional. He made really clear points, and he left the meetings with clear next steps, with no one in the room confused as to what was happening next.
If I had not seen behind the scenes, if I didn't know him so well, I would have assumed that this was something that came easy to him, that he was born as somebody who was highly confident.
But because I was traveling with him day to day, I knew that this was not the case. I witnessed how he made sure that he was thoroughly prepared and practiced before any of his important discussions, meetings, or presentations. There was not one single time that he walked into a room without knowing exactly what he needed them to know how we wanted them to feel and what he was wanting them to commit to.
So do not be fooled, the sort of confidence that you see in high performers and high achievers. Comes from preparation and practice. Top performers prepare and get their reps in to build confidence.
How to KFC:
What facts do you need them to know?
What do they need to be aware of to move the conversation onto next steps?
What is important? What is your clear focus?
Do not cloud the discussion with facts that confuse the matter.
Stay focused that you do not dilute the critical points. If you aren't clear, no one else will be either. Before the meeting make sure that you can think of at least three clear points that you want to articulate. Write down these three points and practice saying them. Get used to saying them out loud, and work out how to make these facts clear in the simplest possible way.
Feel - on to the nuances:
How do you want the other person/people to feel. Excited, cautious, concerned, inspired, reassured?
What tone do you need to use?
What is the feeling that you want to have left them with? What sort of energy will you be bringing into that room or into that discussion?
Dial back and remind yourself, what the purpose of the meeting is? What is it driving to?
What are the next steps you are looking for? Is there some sort of commitment that you are looking for from others?
Prepare and practice:
The reality is that the sort of confidence that you're looking for comes purely from preparation and practice. Say the words out loud in the tone you think best for the occasion - because until you have actually said the words that you are trying to articulate, no doubt at some stage you will stumble and trip.
Critical to your preparation is considering the challenges that you will face. Be realistic, there are going to be challenges.
Difficult questions, objections, questions you cannot answer, technical glitches and distractions like someone on their phone or clearly disinterested!
The most important pre-meeting question:
One of the most important things that you can do before going into any discussion meeting or presentation is to consider what really matters to the other person or other people that you are meeting with. What is their agenda? What are their priorities? What problems are they facing?
Remain curious. Set a rule for yourself that, come the end of the meeting or the discussion, you will know at least one thing that the other person is working on or hoping to achieve. And one thing that the other person or people are concerned about. One pain point or problem they are facing.
Lastly, don't forget a few obvious basics, like being able to introduce yourself properly at the start of the meeting. I am always surprised how many people completely bungle their introduction and are left feeling a little anxious and nervous and not able to put their best foot forward. Spend some time preparing a great and sharp introduction that you use at the start of all your meetings and presentations.
Start small. Take KFC and start today, even with the smallest of meetings, discussions, or phone calls. What do you want the person to know? How do you want them to feel and what do you want them to commit to? Try applying it to your written communication and even your informal discussions. Watch how when you prepare and practice that your confidence builds.