How to Look and Appear Confident

Over the last several years my work as a University researcher and lecturer, has presented me with many opportunities in which I have had to make public speeches at various conferences as well as delivering lectures to students of different ages (from 15 to 75).

You might think from the way that I have come across in the above statement that I have been confident and outspoken from an early age.

But I'll tell you that this is not the case and couldn't be further from the truth.

by Elia Strange

As a young child I was painfully shy, and when my parents took me to visit friends and relatives I would go and sit quietly in the corner of the room and stay there even if I was offered a toy or a treat.

I clearly remember the time when my family and I went to visit my auntie, she asked me if I wanted a cookie and I couldn't even answer. I just felt shy and really uncomfortable that someone was paying attention to me. This overwhelmed me so much that I even started crying, can you believe it!


You might think that this is just plain weird or that possibly my parents were monsters who lived in my closet and only came out during the night. Or even that they neglected me and didn't give me enough love and attention, but no, my parents were ok as parents go.

They worked full-time but they loved and cared for me as much as they could. Maybe it's something to do with my astrological sign Virgo, which is known as a sign of quiet children and reserved people. I don’t know why I was like this.

For as long as I can remember I would always prefer books to people and I would have rather read a good book than have to go and meet people or make new friends.
Even in school I kept my head down and always remained quiet, avoiding conversations and I didn't speak until I was asked a question.

So what happened? How is it possible that I changed from being that shy quiet introverted child, into someone who has become a public speaker by the time I had reached my 30s?

Well, first of all, don't think for a minute that from a reserved introvert I have suddenly became 100% outgoing extrovert. This is not just not the case,
I still have my moments when I would rather read a book (or watch a movie) than socialise or make a public speech.

My heart still races when I need to speak in front of others, whether they are people who I know well or not. But my secret is that I've learned a few rules about looking confident, and these have changed my life.

Using these simple rules I not only appear confident, but I feel confident too, no matter whom I am with or to whom I am talking!

Here is the link to my latest conference presentation. I was making this presentation on behalf of Professor Ann Edworthy on the topic of "Stress in Parents of Disabled Children". That day I had to give this speech in front of nearly 300 people, including the directors of the charity, professors and staff from other universities and members of the public. Plus, I was being videoed at the same time!

You can see my speech here: Cerebra Conference speech (on behalf of Prof A Edworthy)

Right, so what are these secrets of appearing confident in front of others you might ask.

Well, if you asked, then read on!


The Secrets of Confidence

1) Pay attention to how you dress. What you are wearing can either make or break your confidence in front of others.

If you feel that your clothes are a bit too tight or too loose in places, or you stained them whilst eating your breakfast or lunch, this can really make you feel uncomfortable. And being uncomfortable means less confidence instantly.

I remember the days where I would put a blouse, which was a bit too revealing or a skirt, which was a bit too short. Then, when socialising and being introduced to new people at a party or at an event, I suddenly feel very uncomfortable and could not speak openly and confidently with them.

This sudden lack of confidence was compounded simply because I felt that my choice of outfit was inappropriate to wear.

So pay special attention to what you are going to be wearing. Make sure you will feel 100% comfortable, especially if you will be meeting new people or speaking in front of others.

2) Your body language says it all. Look at confident people: how they stand, how they pose themselves, how they walk, how they look at others, etc.

Their confidence shines through them.

Then notice the body language of people who are not confident at all. Their shoulders would be lowered down, their back is slightly hunched over, and they will avoid other people's gaze whilst they try to be 'unnoticeable'.

So when you walk in to a room full of people, straighten your back and look at them as if you want to see the tops of the people’s heads.

Practice walking confidently outside too, just look up at the roofs of the houses, count the chimneys, or look at the birds. Your body will straighten up instantly. You head will be up, shoulders straight, and even the way you walk will look confident.

Actually, I have already mentioned the power of your appearance and dress code in another article I have written 'How to make people like you?'
I suggest you read this too, as it will give you valuable advice about socialising with other people and how to make this experience positive for you.

3) Fake it until you make it!

Oh I love this rule.

Having to stand up and speak in front of people can be over whelming and you could end up being afraid to say anything at all.
This used to happen to me until I discovered this very simple rule 'Fake it until you make it!' As I would start giving my presentation I would be telling myself that I was cool and confident, instead of sweaty and nervous, and suddenly you become a different person altogether.


Pretend that you are confident.
Pretend that you have thoroughly organised you thoughts or your speech in your head and that you know exactly what to say.
Believe in yourself and trust that when you open your mouth, you will say the right words and everyone will understand you.
Fake it by pretending that you are a cool and confident guy or a chick, and then behave like one. Of course you don't want to overdo it either, as people don't like those who pretend to be better than them. So, ‘fake being and acting natural’.

4) If you get tongue tied and stumble whilst talking, then just take a moment to collect your thoughts, pick yourself up and continue. As a rule people tend to like those who are genuine.
For example, say you are talking to a newly introduced person and then you suddenly got embarrassed because you are not sure what to say next.

Look away and take a deep breath, or excuse yourself and go for a breath of fresh air for a couple of minutes.
Then go back to talk to this person when you have collected your thoughts and continue with your conversation.

Sometimes, when I am speaking in front of a group of people, I can also lose my train of thoughts. Instead of panicking and making the situation worse,
I take a deep breath, or take a pause to collect my thoughts, or even look through my notes for a moment. Then calmly, I carry on with my presentation, speech or lecture and usually people even don't notice what just happened.

Because most of the people there wont know you, they probably think that this is your normal way of speaking or behaving. There is nothing wrong with that as we are all different and have our own style

5) If you pay close attention to other what people saying then you can become distracted from feeling shy and embarrassed, as you will be focused on someone else and wont start thinking only about yourself.

If you are in the habit of worrying about your looks or your body posture then you may worry about what others are thinking of you.

Stop it.

Start to genuinely pay attention to what others are saying. Use phrases like 'wow, have you really been there?', 'oh, this is so interesting!',
'could you tell me more about it?', and so on. This way, you'll distract yourself from the negative thoughts and you will appear much more confident to others.

6) Practice your confidence manoeuvres.

Find the time to practice all of these suggestions that I given you so far in this article, but in “normal” situations first. What do I mean by a “normal” situation?

For example, when you are with your family and friends, or with other people that you know very well. You could start by telling them about something that you found interesting in something you recently read.

Whilst you are telling them all about it practice the way that you stand, walk and talk. Pretend that you have become more confident, just like an actor takes on a role.

7) Don't worry, don't worry, and don't worry. When you enter to a room full of people, I can guarantee you that most of the people in that room are concerned only about themselves most of the time.

You can trust me about this, as there have been plenty of studies by leading psychologists that prove this. These studies show that most people worry about their own looks and how they appear to others, including what others think of them whilst they give their own presentations.

They will not be judging you, and here is the bitter truth why. The fact is most people will not be concerned about you, well, nowhere near as much as they care about themselves anyway.

The brutal truth is that most people won't even think about you, because they thinking about themselves more than anybody else.

So who are the people who really know you and who truly think and care about you? These will be people like your parents, your spouse or your children, these will be the ones who are concerned about your health and well-being.

If you had to do a speech in front of others, even if it is a group of your friends or family and stumbled whilst we were speaking, then you might think that all your listeners would laugh at you openly if they could. But the truth is most people genuinely want their speaker to succeed and wish them well. They would patiently wait for you to re-claim your confidence and continue from where you've left and this is exactly how you would feel about others. Well, I would like to believe you would!

8) Use books and hypnotic CD's to boost your confidence.

 I love reading books on self-growth and they usually include chapters on how to be happier, healthier and more confident.

If you like to read, then have a look at the books in this category as I believe that they are truly beneficial in helping your growth of confidence.

If you don't like to read, then try audio books or hypnotic CD's on becoming a confident person. You can listen to the audio books whilst driving, but not the hypnotic ones though!

I usually buy only professional CD's from large well-established companies and advice you to do the same. My reason for doing so is that then I know I'm not going to be sick of hearing a poorly recorded voice in a couple of weeks time.

9) Like (or love) yourself. You have probably heard of the phrase 'Love yourself'.


I'd also add to this by saying 'treat yourself as you would your best friend'.

This means that when you talk to yourself (we all do, usually in our heads), then talk as you would with your best friend. Encourage yourself with self praise and be kind and forgiving.


Confidence growth can take many months and even years.


You won't notice how much you have grown until you remember some past episode from your life and realise that you've changed.

Maybe you have found that you would now react differently to the way that someone says something or now behave in a different way to stressful situations. Then you will definitely know that your confidence is growing, it always has done, it's just that now you are more in control of it.


      I wish you the best you can be!

Other articles you might like:

What is assertiveness

Stop your irrational thoughts in 6 simple steps

How to make people like you?

How do we choose our partners and friends

Why do we find some people attractive

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