As you go through life, you will be presented with three  or four major opportunities of one sort or another. By the time you are in your mid-20s, on average, you will have already walked past at least one opportunity. Why were these opportunities missed?

Because you were afraid to try.

Think back about the girlfriend or boyfriend you never had ….but that wished you had. What stopped you? It was fear of failure or in that particular case more likely, a fear of rejection.

You tell yourself that there was no point in “having a go” because you had no hope of winning but in actual fact you were merely rationalising fear of failure.

One of the greatest fears that we have is standing up in front of a group of people and talking. Once again it is the fear of failure which is the hurdle. Consequently, many people avoid having to speak at all and when they are forced to make a presentation or to talk to a group of people they rarely make any impact because their fear stops them taking any risks.

It even happens to professional presenters.

We are too obsessed with thinking about what the audience may or may not think about us, when in actual fact, the audience is not thinking about is quite as much as we seem to imagine.

The same mental processes apply in selling and pitching for new business. Too many people would rather not make an attempt because their ego tells them that they must not be seen to try and fail. In actual fact to try and fail is the best learning experience that there is.

If you want to increase your self-confidence, you have to do it by facing your fears and exposing yourself to  the risk of becoming a SUPERSTAR! You will never be great if you don’t take the risk.

There are many books and courses on techniques on how to appear confident and, needless to say, I am just about to give you another one. However, the difference is that the only thing I have to offer you is that the real key to confidence is to be yourself.

Many of us have been brought up with that parental “ What will they think?” conditioning and of course, we have carried it with us into our adult life. We spend a lot of our time changing our behaviour in order to suit others’ expectations.

You should always strive to be yourself and do no more than work very hard at projecting your own personality. There are already far too many clones on “Planet Corporate.”

You will never be confident if part of you is always trying not to make a mistake or trying to maintain a certain accent or worrying that you are not wearing the right shoes or that your hair is all wrong etc.

Go out there as yourself and lose that “ What will they think?” mentality!

If you are involved in any type of work which involves trying to persuade others, whether it is your own staff , an individual, another company or even your own family, I guarantee that once you lose the shackles of trying to impress through creating an image, not only will you become more successful, but your stress levels will suddenly disappear.

You’ll never guess who the most successful salespeople are. You may be surprised to hear that they are not the ones who deliver the most wonderful presentations but they are the ones who behave like normal human beings (themselves) and not corporate cyborgs. The ones who earn the most income are quite simply, the ones who ask for the business because they are not afraid of the client saying “No!

If the response is “No!” their attitude is not a feeling of devastation or failure , but simply “OK, let’s move onto the next one”. They don’t take rejection as a form of personal criticism to be analysed and reanalysed….because in reality, you will never ‘gel’ with everyone. So failure is not an issue – merely a fact of life.

Yes, any sort of verbal presentation is nerve wracking even to the most seasoned professional. How many  times have you read of well-known actors who admit to the most crippling stage fright and yet they do it over and over again because they know that they can only improve by putting themselves through the process as often as possible? There are certain things you cannot learn in the classroom.

Far too many people do not progress through an organisation as far as they should, because they have managed to avoid voicing their views…. because they are nervous.  They are the ones who are overlooked during  promotion time although they may well be competent but nobody really knows about them because they are shy.

There’s nothing wrong in being shy but unless they are fiercely clever, shy people rarely make it

…….and the cure is so simple!

If you learn to be yourself and go through the (initially) very uncomfortable process of speaking in front of your peers and speaking in front of complete strangers, you will become totally confident in your own abilities and you may be surprised to hear that this new-found set of skills will impact on every aspect of your life, both professional and private.

On the subject of overcoming discomfort and fear. I would like to mention one practical aspects of speaking publicly which is often overlooked and that is the weird effect of adrenaline, which your body produces when you are in a “freeze, fight or flight” situation. (BTW, “FIGHT” is the one you are going for!!)

Adrenaline distorts your perception of time which means that any pauses during a presentation may only be a few seconds long, but your misperception of time, fuelled by your fear, makes any pause feel like an eternity. Don’t worry, you will become used to it.

Even as a professional presenter, there have been times when I’m talking and thinking “ I’m about to dry up!”. If you dwell on that thought too long, you will come to a shuddering halt. The secret is to just keep talking, forget it and you will be surprised how the words just arrive in the nick of time!

This adrenaline-misperception of time  makes nervous speakers rush through their presentation. The correct approach is the exact opposite. Speak slowly.

So forget all the other “tips” and techniques – just go out there and be yourself, be nervous in the sure knowledge that in time, you will improve because your fear of failure will very quickly become a thing of the past.