Published: Tuesday 25th March 2014

25 years working in the high pressure environment of live television and 20 years training people in presentation skills have given me more than a passing interest in the concept of confidence.  Rather like cellulite – another C word – it’s a mysterious and perplexing issue to which at least half the population is seeking an answer.  If I did a word search on my hard drive, this word (confidence, not cellulite) would undoubtedly come top.

What I’ve learned through personal experience and through training others is that there are other C words tied up with confidence, and the key one is control. 

What this means is (a) being in control of your environment and the practical things which might trip you up (technology, transport, logistics); (b) being in control of yourself (understanding your own performance strengths and weaknesses and putting in place strategies and techniques for enhancing/combating them); (c) being in control of your content (here’s another vital C word which comes from thorough audience research, rigorous editing of your material and clarity of message), and (d) as a result of the above, being in control of the audience.  This is the Holy Grail for any presenter in a face to face situation – the feeling that you are literally holding the audience’s attention in the palm of your hand. 

I’ve experienced glorious moments of control (being able to ad lib when autocue failed because I’d thoroughly prepped the script) and painful seconds out of control when I suffered something akin to stage fright on live BBC television.  Both useful additions to the treasure chest of experience!

Where I’ve come to truly understand the importance of control as a means of generating confidence is in helping Olympic athletes with their presentation skills.  They attribute their sporting success partly to natural ability but mainly to preparation (training, nutrition, mental strength, kit, equipment).  And that’s especially so for those athletes under Dave Brailsford’s wing and following his aggregation of marginal gains principle.  This means ferocious attention to detail and control of every peripheral which might affect performance, eg travelling with your own pillow to avoid a poor night’s sleep.

So for us mere mortals, hoping to persuade clients to buy our ideas rather than aspiring to Olympic gold, what does this teach us?

That the key to success lies in the C words – clarity, content, control and confidence.

We’ll tackle cellulite another day.

In the meantime, to learn more skills for presenting successfully in pitches, join our Pitch Skills Day on 24th April


Jayne Constantinis – March 2014