Public Speaking Expert Amy Jin on How to Project Confidence Every Time You Talk About Your Startup

An incredible product or company isn’t worth much if you can’t sell it—to potential investors, employees, clients, or customers. And one of the keys to getting people excited about your startup is how you present yourself when you talk about it. Amy Jin, WeWork Labs mentor, coach, and public speaking expert, hosted a Labs workshop focused on pitching with power and confidence—here are the key takeaways that can help you make a positive, lasting impression every time you talk about your company, no matter who you’re talking to.

The first thing you need to know is that the content of what you’re saying isn’t actually the most important part of your pitch. It matters, of course, but as Jin explains, out of the three components of presentation—body language, voice and tone, and content—content matters the least. “When you’re going to pitch, it’s a performance, even if it’s one-on-one,” Jin says. “You have to create an energy and an emotional connection.” That’s where your body language and your voice and tone come in.

Your body language
“We all have a default body language that we need to become aware of,” Jin explains. “How you hold your shoulders, how wide your feet are when you stand, if you naturally smile or are more serious.” What you may not be aware of is the message you’re sending with that default. Swaying from side to side, crossing your arms, letting your shoulders hunch forward—all of that can convey discomfort or nervousness. Standing with your shoulders square and open, feet hip width apart, planted firmly, and weight distributed evenly—those are signs of confidence.

The easiest way to adopt more powerful body language is to tape yourself pitching and review the footage, says Jin. You’ll see exactly what you need to work on. Pay attention to nervous habits, too, including verbal habits. “With verbal ticks like ‘um, you know, like,’ that often happens because people are trying to keep up with the pace of speaking and fill the space so there are no pauses, but pauses can be very powerful” says Jin. Deliberately slowing down your pace of speaking should fix it.

Don’t forget your eye contact. You don’t want to do a non-stop visual scan of the people you’re talking to, jumping from one person to the next by the second. Instead, Jin recommends making and holding eye contact with one person until you’ve finished making your current point, then moving to the next person, and so on.

The sound of your voice
Speaking in a monotone voice won’t do you any favors. “People will tune out because they prefer variation,” says Jin. Think of your voice as a toolbox, and your tone, pitch, volume, emphasis and inflection are the tools inside that you can use to build a compelling message (remember, pitching is a performance). You don’t want to sound neutral about your company—you want to sound excited, and your audience wants you to as well. “You use your voice to tell the audience how they’re supposed to feel about a piece of information,” says Jin. Imagine you’re OpenTable in the early days, telling a potential investor that you onboarded 30 restaurants last week. Your voice tells them whether that’s a number they should be excited about. Without that verbal cue from you, they may not know what to make of the data point.

How to keep nerves from ruining your pitch
Jin has three simple tips that can keep your nerves in check. First, try projecting confidence through your body—adopting a confident stance can help you feel more confident mentally. Second, use your breath to influence your body’s stress response. Box breathing is a technique that U.S. Navy SEALS use before they head out on missions to control their nerves: breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, out for four counts, hold for four counts, and repeat. This type of deep breathing activates your body’s relaxation response, explains Jin (and research backs her up). Finally, reframe the purpose of why you’re pitching this person or people. Thinking about what you’re offering these people, whether it’s the chance to invest in your company, to join your company, or use your product, will make you less focused on yourself and help lower your nerves.

This post is based on content from a WeWork Labs programming session.

Interested in connecting directly with this mentor? Ask your Labs Manager for help.

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