Coaching communication Presentation public speaking video

Power posing debunked: the truth about power poses

Some people feel scared or nervous before they deliver a speech. To gain confidence, they might go somewhere private right before they speak and strike what’s called a power pose.

This is a broad, expansive gesture like putting your arms over your head and looking up. It’s a classic pose of someone who just won!

Someone who’s victorious. A champion!

Or they might stand with their hands on theirs hips while looking up. Just like a superhero! Strong, confident, large and in charge!

And these kinds of expansive poses are a form of warm up exercise. You can gain emotional energy from putting your body into these types of postures that make you feel more powerful.

Huddling and crouching? Those are classic postures we adopt when we feel scared or submissive.

Huddling and crouching poses send a message to your brain to feel afraid. Using broad gestures sends a message to your brain to feel confident.

And while the science on power posing isn’t exactly clear right now, consider this: warm-up exercises have been a part of theater tradition for a long, long time. That’s because the warm up exercises you perform off stage can help you project the emotional energy you want to portray onstage.

Power posing is actual a riff on an old acting technique. It’s a simple but powerful warmup exercise. And it’s one that’s worth trying.

After all, when you’re performing on stage or in front of a camera, you need to put out about 25 percent more energy than you might do in a normal, everyday conversation.

If you’re just being ‘yourself’ on camera — and you don’t project a little more emotional energy that you normally would, you’re probably going to come across as lifeless and flat.

Actors often do warmups before they go on stage.

Professional performers know it’s way easier to come down from an amped up emotional state than it is to try to ramp up to a heightened emotional state.

So if you don’t believe in the science of power posing, why not take a centuries old tip from the world of acting and performance?

Get yourself a ritual. Try some warmups before you hit the stage.

Look at it this way. You have nothing – zero – to lose.

And best of all, you might be delighted by the results you achieve with a few simple warmup exercises before your next speech or presentation. Give them a try. Let me know how power posing works out for you.

Laura Bergells is a writer and instructor. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.  You can also find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

Laura Bergells writes, coaches, and teaches. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.  You can also find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

Signup for LinkedIn Learning

Coaching communication Presentation

Don’t create a false sense of urgency

I got a special offer in the mail on Saturday. It was marked “Urgent”.

I felt puzzled. After all, the mail isn’t an urgent medium. The postal service takes its time.

But I skimmed the letter, anyway. It offered me 20 bucks if I would do a thing.

I don’t even want to know what the thing is. I read a few paragraphs and got bored. I shredded the letter.

A few moments later, I got an email from an organization marked “urgent”. I read a few paragraphs of babble, then deleted it.

We all know the score by now. Messages marked “urgent” aren’t urgent.

Twenty bucks of “free” means I’m going to become an indebted servant to some corporate scheme that’s going to drain my resources and patience for years. And if it takes someone 3 paragraphs to get to the point, there’s no urgency.

If it’s really urgent, you don’t say “urgent”.

You say “fire”. You scream “get out”.

I don’t need corporations creating a false sense of urgency for me. Children are being separated from their families. People are being rounded up in the streets. We’re surrounded by matters of real urgency.

Marking something “urgent” means it’s “urgent” for them to make money. It’s not urgent enough for your immediate response.

You’ve got better things to do with your life.

Laura Bergells is a writer and instructor. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.  You can also find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

Coaching communication

My one (really obvious) tip that can make you amazing at reading body language…

You’re a bit psychic. You may not know this. But you can forecast the near future pretty well.

For example, you can look at a stranger’s face as she walks toward you in a crowded airport. With one wordless glance, you know where she’s going next.

In a split second, you’ve analyzed her facial expressions and body language. Expertly, you navigate around her as she travels to her intended destination.

Oh, you don’t know whether she will be going to Bangkok or Paris. But you know that stranger is going to walk to the left as she passes you.

That’s why you walked to the right. You avoided collision as you both made your way to your next destination.

Perhaps you perform small actions like these hundreds of times a day. You read people. You glance at their body language and facial expressions.

You gauge intentions. You make split second calculations as you navigate through time and space.

You do all this without words. You don’t think twice about it.

It’s too ingrained. Too basic. Too obvious.

Or is it?

Your ability to understand other people without them saying anything?

It’s actually amazing.

And your ability to communicate without using words? Also amazing.

Yet we often dismiss or ignore this kind of nonverbal communication. We take it for granted. And when we ignore it– we can get into big trouble.

We’ll stand at a crosswalk, absorbed in our phones. Our faces and bodies aren’t signaling our intentions to passing motorists. 

Passing motorists don’t know how to interpret this. They don’t know what our next move will be.

That’s because we’re not using our bodies to signal to the world around us. Instead, we’re using our faces and bodies to communicate to another world – a digital world.

The digital world is much (much) less urgent. 

We almost always get in trouble when we ignore communication fundamentals. This morning, I read a headline:

Honolulu is the first big US city to ban phone use at crosswalks

I actually read this headline out loud, while shaking my head.

“Not a bad idea” said a colleague. His face, 4 meters or so from mine, was buried in a mobile device.

Got that? He didn’t gauge my feelings on the subject. He responded to my words without looking at me. He didn’t see me shake my head.

“Is it a good idea?” I thought. I stared at him and arched an eyebrow with skepticism.

The Honolulu scenario is too Orwellian for my tastes. I like the idea of safer crosswalks. But I don’t like the idea of ‘distracted thoughtpolice’ issuing tickets for ‘distracted thoughtcrimes’. Surely there must be a better way to help people.”

That’s what I was thinking. But my colleague? He never looked at me to read my expression.

He had no idea I was ruminating on Orwell and the thoughtpolice. He kept staring and poking at his device. I grinned and shook my head at the irony.

I doubt issuing him a distracted thoughtcrime ticket would help our situation. Nonetheless, I could tell by his body language he wasn’t really interested in the headline or my feelings on it. I let it go.

The skeptical raise of my eyebrow? My ironic smile? The shake of my head? My colleague’s disinterested tone and bent head?

All minutia. Subtle little gestures with little long term impact or significance.

Or might they mean more than that?

Could missing day-to-day nonverbal cues like these threaten our chances at survival? Perhaps not with the immediacy of an oncoming car.

But over time, these minute miscalculations can erode the strength of our relationships and our communities.

But we can increase our body language competency with one simple tip:

Look up.

Seriously. That’s it. It’s the first obvious step we can all take to become amazing at reading body language.

Look up.

Sounds too basic, right? Give it a whirl, anyway.

Try being present. Notice the nuances.

We all communicate more than we know without even trying. And we all understand more than we know without half-thinking about it.

So think about it. (At least start by half-thinking about it.)

You’ll never know what you’re missing if you don’t look up. You might miss an oncoming car.

That would be great.

But by looking up, you can also gain a more powerful understanding of the emotional context of the life you’re living. Don’t miss out.

Look up.

Use your eyes from Establishing Credibility as a Speaker by Laura Bergells

Laura Bergells writes, coaches, and teaches. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.  You can also find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

Signup for LinkedIn Learning

Coaching communication public speaking social media video

Beware the false dilemma! How to pivot away from either-or questions…

Consider these four questions. You’ve seen headlines like these in your social media feeds:

  1. Who suffers more: Alzheimer’s patients or Alzheimer’s caregivers?
  2. What’s more important: presentation content or presentation delivery?
  3. Office work or remote work: which is better for productivity?
  4. Why would anyone need to go to college when they could just take online classes?

Media outlets that depend on advertising dollars often like to post false dilemma questions like these. They do it with the aim of “increasing engagement” or “starting conversations.”

A casual reader or viewer might not even care that deeply about the posed question. But once they’ve responded by picking a side – uh, oh!

They’ve entered a trap.

Once people answer one way or the other, they might feel as if they have to defend their position. Sometimes, they’ll even fight with people who selected the other side of the either-or equation.

You know what happens next. Fights draw crowds.

With one simple either-or question, the media outlet that posted the question used an agitation technique. Deliberately posing a false dilemma question to ‘increase engagement’ is propaganda.

Often, the intent is not to inform or educate. The true aim of the false dilemma question is to agitate, confuse, and/or polarize.

Keep your eye out for these kinds of questions. You’ll see and hear deliberate agitation techniques all the time.

Some polarizing questions are posed innocently, but most are deliberately designed to agitate. They create pointless fights and arguments. They prevent any kind of substantive progress.

Increased engagement? More like “increased agitation”.

And it’s not just media outlets who use this technique to cause fights or draw crowds. Sometimes, you’ll be presented with an either-or question in everyday work or personal situations.

Let’s say you’re presented with a false dilemma question in real life. Unlike social media, you can’t choose to not participate. How can you answer it without helping to create an unstable and contentious environment?

Sometimes, you can’t say nothing. You must respond. If so, you might like to try a classic, 2-step pivoting technique.

For example, let’s say a public speaking student asks me, in front of class:

“For our next class presentation, tell us. What’s more important: content or delivery?”

Since the student is asking an either-or question, I might use a pivot statement.

I might say, “I wouldn’t frame the question that way.”

Then, I say how I would frame it. Then, I answer that question.

And my answer? It’s almost never either-or. It’s almost always both-and.

For example, I might say,

“I wouldn’t frame the question that way. Content and delivery are both important, so you need to work on both. Don’t forget – you need to make a connection with your audience.”

Remember that two step process:

  1. Use the pivot phrase “I wouldn’t frame it that way” to politely reject an either-or, false dilemma scenario;
  2. Proceed with framing a both-and response.

Let’s see how this 2-step technique might work in a TV interview. Pretend a reporter asks a doctor:

“Who suffers more, Alzheimer’s caregivers or Alzheimer’s patients?”

The doctor might recognize the false dilemma from media training and say:

“I wouldn’t frame it that way, since both groups suffer in their own unique ways. Nor should we try to make suffering some sort of competition. Instead, I’d rather use my time here today to address what we can do to ease the suffering of both patients and their caregivers.”

Well, done, doctor!

And now, I’ll give you two brief exercises to try on your own. Now that you know to recognize a false dilemma question when you see one, practice answering this either-or question:

“Which scenario is better for productivity: office work or remote work?”

Try using the two-step technique to answer. (Here’s my take on the subject…no peeking until you’ve answered on your own!)

And now, here’s your last exercise. Answer this oft-asked question:

“Why would anyone need to go to college when they could just take online classes?”

Go ahead. Once again, formulate your own answer.

Here’s my 11 second pivot response to the Classroom v. Online learning question.

Learn to recognize and respond appropriately to inflammatory and polarizing questions. Life is seldom an either-or scenario.

Your life is bigger than “either-or”. Your life is almost always “both-and”.

Laura Bergells is a writer and instructor. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.  You can also find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

Coaching communication Education fun Presentation public speaking video

Lose your fear and learn to present on-camera

Three years ago, I organized an online web conference. At the request of an organization, I interviewed three of their Subject Matter Experts to get background information for a presentation.

The following photo is a re-creation of what I saw in this online meeting:

Uh-huh. That’s right.

For almost the entire interview, I stared at a close up of one man’s ear. After a few minutes, I told him he might want to adjust his camera.

“Oh, sorry,” he said. I then got an extreme close up of what appeared to be his hairline. 

“Is that your neck?”


“I think I preferred your ear.”

“Oh. OK.”

For the next hour, we all looked at his ear. 

My interview subject never saw his audience. He never looked at the camera. We could see his ear twitch a bit as he talked, but that was about it.

Let me be clear. The expert with the wiggly ear?

He’s brilliant in his field. He had wonderful information to share. And he’s also a delightful person.

He simply didn’t know anything about presenting on camera. It was his first time, and he was too intimidated to tell anybody he didn’t know what he was doing.

He thought he could fake it. And in a way, he was right. 

We were a friendly group. We didn’t judge our colleague too harshly.

We were in a time crunch, so we smiled and went on with the meeting. And after all, we all knew the guy was a genius.

But I also know he’s doing much better now. Post-meeting, he took some good-natured ribbing and sought help.

He learned more about delivering online presentations. And of course, he continues to gain valuable experience.

There are plenty of tips available to help you improve your own online video performance. Here are six of my favorites: they’re all available through LinkedIn Learning:

1. Successful video conferencing tips

2. Developing your on-camera presence

3. Setting up your home or office filming environment

4. Wardrobe and makeup tips

5. Lighting tips

6. Tips for on-camera body language and posture

This sort of specific information and advice can help get you going in the right direction with regard to your next on-camera presentation. Think you don’t need help? That it’s no big deal? 

Your audience was raised on TV or online. We have expectations for how people look and perform on a screen. You may be warm and wonderful in person – but how do you come across on camera?

We were all kind to “ear guy” — but you don’t always have the luxury of being in front of an audience who loves and accepts you no matter what crazy thing you do. You’ll want to learn and practice some of the basics before you present to employers, clients, key stakeholders, and the public. 

You probably don’t think of yourself as a film star. But if you’re asked to present on camera, guess what? 

You’re a video star now, my friend. It may be a low budget production from your home office, but who knows? One low budget presentation could have enormous business stakes…or at least lead to previously unheard of opportunities. (It happened to me.)

Prepare yourself. We’re all video stars now.

If it hasn’t happened to you already… it’s going to happen soon. We’ll all be presenting more on camera in the future.

See you online!

Laura Bergells is a writer, teacher, and a LinkedIn Learning course author. Check out Establishing Credibility as a SpeakerCrisis Communication and Public Speaking.

Coaching communication public speaking

Fashions change. Fundamentals don’t.

In the 1990’s, I worked for a company that changed its dress code. We went from business formal to business casual.

Employees accepted this change readily. I felt like I got a raise, because my dry cleaning expenses almost disappeared. And the comfort of ditching a suit for the dark jeans, tee-shirt, and blazer combo? Whee!

Last year, I read about a relaxed dress code at Goldman Sachs. In the same year, I heard the controversy over bare arms.

The buzz about “well, what do I wear now?” hums and throbs with a fair amount of regularity. Why, I wrote a blog post on this topic in 2011. I touched on it in another post in 2012.

In 2017, I did (more than one) workshop and consult on the topic of “Establishing Credibility as a Public Speaker“. In it, I answered the “what do I wear?” question yet again.

In 2018, I filmed a course for LinkedIn Learning titled “Establishing Credibility as a Speaker“. In this 2:35 minute video, I discuss the whole “what do I wear” concept in more detail.

For the past few decades, my advice hasn’t changed that much. Bottom line?

Fashions change. Communication fundamentals don’t.

And guess what? I suspect my 2017-era advice still be apt in 2027 and beyond.

Know this: your non-verbal communication impacts your credibility as a public speaker. As you face your audience, think about your fashion choices.

How will your fashion choices help support your message and intent?

Sometime you’ll want to blend in. Other times, you’ll want to use your fashion choices to stand out…or to make a stand. Depending on your message and intent, dressing provocatively may help you establish credibility and inspire change more than playing it safe.

What do you think? In 2037, will I be dispensing the same “what to wear” advice? Or will we have evolved beyond judging others on their appearance?

Laura Bergells is not a fashion expert. She’s a writer and teacher. Check out her courses on Crisis Communication and Public Speaking. The above video is an excerpt from a 2018 course, “Establishing Credibility as a Speaker“.

You can find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.


“What do you do?” How to answer this question like an artist

So. What do you do?

For years, I’ve read articles that tell me to never ask people what they do as an icebreaker. And yet, people I don’t know keep asking me what I do.

How about you? Do people ask you what you do a lot?

I suspect that no matter how many articles pile up on this topic — people won’t change. They’ll keep at it. They’ll keep asking what I do.

That’s cool. But a few years ago, I decided to change my answer.

In the past, I might have said I was a writer. Or a teacher. Or a business communication consultant. Or a speech coach.

Freelancers tend to cobble together an umbrella career of a wide range of skills. We perform many tasks in the realm of crafting and delivering messages.

I’ve been toying with the idea of saying “I’m a slasher. I write SLASH teach SLASH coach SLASH speak…you get the picture.

It’s very Hollywood. No one’s an actor. They’re an actor SLASH writer SLASH producer.

Think Orson Welles. Or Oprah. Or Donald Glover. They not only slay, they’re slashers.

But saying “I’m a slasher” can be confusing for people who ask what I do. If I tell them I’m a writer, most think in terms of “book” — not “speeches” or “scripts” or “copy”.

If I say, “teacher” – they ask what grade. If I say “speaker” – they ask if I live in a van, down by the river.

To help clear things up, I tried following some more advice. This time, another slew of articles and books told me that I needed to craft an elevator pitch.

I was instructed to say something like this,

“I work with growing businesses to help them create and deliver compelling messaging.”

But to me, that sounded arch and stilted. It also seemed like I was using a lot of words to say “I write, teach, coach, and speak.”

The elevator pitch approach? It didn’t work out too well for me. I felt like a dope when I said it. So I’ve hit upon a new tactic when people ask me what I do.

I literally tell them. I share the most recent, top-of-mind thing I actually did. For example, here’s a list of a few things I might say:

  • “Oh! I’m reading this fascinating book about…”
  • “Last week, I published an article on…”
  • “I spoke at a conference about…”
  • “I took a class on…”
  • “I’ve been listening to more audio books. I just finished…”
  • “So far this year, I spent over 100 hours trying to get medical coverage.”
  • “I’ve been driving my car less and walking more.”
  • “I went on vacation to…”
  • “I sous vide a turkey in a beer cooler.”
  • “I’m watching…”
  • “I participated in a…”

See what I’ve done? I’ve taken the question literally. When people ask what I do, I tell them what I’m actually doing…then I follow it up with a little bit of specificity.

I’ll confess. This approach has gotten mixed results. Many times, people will be interested in a book I’ve read, a class I’ve taken, or a conference I attended.

Then, they chime in with their own reading list. Or class. Or conference. Or whatever.

I like it when that happens. It’s an entertaining discussion. And we end up bonding over interests and ideas.

But other times, all this ‘literal’ approach does is cause more confusion. I might tell someone I wrote an article about a topic and they’d repeat,

“Sure. But what do you do? You know? For a living?”

So then I’d fall back to saying, “I write, teach, and coach.” Then, they’d seem annoyed or confused that I didn’t lead with that before telling them about an article I wrote.

Oh, well. No matter. Can’t win ’em all.

On the plus side, I’m not hurting for clients or work. At the moment, I have plenty to do.

I sometimes joke that I sign so many non-disclosure agreements, it’s a wonder I can talk about anything. Ever. At all.

On the negative side, I have no idea if my ‘answering the question literally’ is the right approach to take. But, hey. At least I’m enjoying myself.

People aren’t going to stop asking me what I do any time soon. By being literal, I’m hoping to create a more human connection over interesting topics like books, ideas, current events, and mutual interests.

What about you? What do you say when people ask “So. What do you do?”

Laura Bergells is a writer, teacher, and a LinkedIn Learning course author. Check out Establishing Credibility as a SpeakerCrisis Communication and Public Speaking.

Laura has decades of experience as a business communication coach. She has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and leads workshops on effective communication. You can find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

Coaching Education fun Presentation public speaking

What are you doing with your face + body during a team presentation?

Being a part of a team or ensemble can be fun and uplifting. And for the audience, a great team is a joy to watch.

Ask any sports fan. They’ll tell you this is true.

In contrast, let me describe the on-screen action I saw in a recent online group presentation. Maybe this will sound familiar to you:

Two guys fiddled on their phones while one colleague talked. Then guy #2 started talking.

Guy #1 and #3 started playing with their phones. When guy #3 talked, a woman seated at the conference table rolled away and faced the door.

Let’s pretend the content of this meeting was strong and the information was outstanding. What did the non-verbals say?


Hot. Mess. 

You guessed it. This was not a great team showing.

Each person focused solely on their own personal performance while speaking. They barely acknowledged the others in the room.

My guess? They didn’t know what team role to play while they weren’t speaking.

That’s not a team presentation. That’s a series of individual performances.

If you’re not talking, you’re still presenting. You need to be active and engaged in a team presentation.

What role should you play in a team presentation when you’re not talking? It depends.

Huddle with your the team before the show. In general, there are two non-speaking roles:

1) cheerleader or 2) observer.

cheer leader

What do I mean by cheerleader? What role do cheerleaders play?

By cheerleader, I mean when one of your team members is talking, you look at them. You focus on the speaker and give them your energy.

You smile and nod when it’s appropriate. You make it clear to the audience that you think the presenter is a genius.

You give your team member your undivided attention and full support. That’s what I mean by cheerleader.

You’re not waving pompoms. You are sending positive energy to your team member so they deliver a better presentation.

You’re also sending a great non-verbal message to the audience. Your body language puts the audience at ease.

When you pay attention to the speaker, so does the audience. When they see you smile and nod, they’re more likely to mimic your behavior.

But cheerleader isn’t the only position you can play. You can also be an observer.

observer watchdog
Watch, Dog.

What’s an observer? What role do observers play?

The observer looks at the audience and picks up on their non-verbal cues. Hey, did somebody look confused when your speaker said something?

Or if it’s an online presentation, did someone write in with a question or comment? The observer watches quietly, and sometimes takes notes.

The observer can feed the speaker with questions after he or she finishes speaking. Observers often positively rephrase any parts that may have caused confusion.

For example,

“That was great, Laura. I especially liked that part where you said ‘just because you’re not speaking doesn’t mean you’re not presenting.’ To me, that means I’m not going to check my phone or otherwise check out mentally while you’re talking. I’m on your team, so I’m going to give you my attention. Good advice!”

See what the observer did? The observer was active and engaged. The observer supported and reinforced the speaker’s message.

If one of your team members or co-presenters is talking, give that person your support. You may be a cheerleader or an observer, but decide ahead of time what role you’re going to play when you’re not talking.

Then, act your part. When you’re giving a team presentation, be mindful of what you’re doing when you are not speaking.

team presentation

Go team!

Laura Bergells is a writer, teacher, and a LinkedIn Learning course author. Check out her courses on Crisis Communication and Public Speaking.

Laura has decades of experience as a business communication coach. She has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and leads workshops on effective communication. You can find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

communication fun

🔥 Are you tapping into the red-hot octopus power of emoji? 🐙

On a personal note, friends have texted me the octopus emoji over the past year. Same deal with the fire emoji.

These are inside jokes. They make me smile.

The red hot octopus emoji? They help me bond with my friends. 🐙🔥

But what about using emoji in business? How well are businesses using emoji to communicate? Is emoji use in business even appropriate?

Over the past year and a half, I reached out to two huge international brands on Twitter to get help from customer support. Both brands quickly resolved my issues and answered my questions.

Problems solved! Hurrah!

Both of my big-brand customer service Twitter responses were helpful, positive, and upbeat. But here are the final words from each:


Note how one giant brand responded with an emoji: the other didn’t. The customer service rep with the monogram ^MF literally put a face on what was previously a faceless text relationship.

How is that supposed to make me feel? How well did each brand communicate with me?

Big companies are supporting emoji use in business communication. Many leaders in communication believe it can help support their brand promise.

Appropriate emoji use has become a part of corporate brand guides as well as business communication training programs. For the first time this year, I even found myself pitching emoji use in client marketing copy.

(The client said “yes”. And we’re off and running…)

Think of emoji as a new and nuanced form of punctuation. If you’re writing for modern people, how might you communicate more effectively by writing with emoji?

After all, real people use emoji in their day-to-day messages. Companies want to seem approachable and likable to their customers.

Organizations want to put a face and a feeling to what might otherwise be a perfunctory relationship. You’ll see big brands support emoji use — and develop guides for what is and isn’t appropriate for their brand.

You’re going to see more emoji use in business communication. Keep an eye out for it.

How does your company support the use of emoji in business communication? And if they don’t — why not?

For a quick (3m 36s) tutorial on using emoji and emoticons in business, check out this video on #LinkedInLearning. 


Laura Bergells is a writer, teacher, and a LinkedIn Learning author. Check out her courses on Crisis Communication and Public Speaking. If you’re a writer, check out Scrivener Essential Training.

You can find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

Coaching communication crisis Education public speaking

Face it: you need to fake it. Authenticity is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Authenticity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. To show our care and compassion for others, we often need to put aside our feelings.

There are higher truths that need to be served. Ask a mother whose child has fallen off a swing set. The child is bleeding and crying.

Does the mother give in to her worst fears? Does she start weeping and screaming? Nope.

“You’ll be OK, sweetie. We’re going to take a quick ride to the emergency room! Won’t that be exciting!”

In business, we often find ourselves in situations where we need to be brave. We need to show confidence we don’t feel.

Let me share three situations where this can happen:

  1. A novice speaker feels terrified. She’s never stood in front of a group of professionals before. She has wonderful knowledge to share, but she has butterflies. 🦋 She feels so nervous, she’s scared she might throw up.

  2. A seasoned pro feels confident. He’s stood in front of groups a zillion times before. Minutes before a critical speech, however; he learns of a grave personal tragedy. 💔 Heartbroken, he feels like bursting into tears.

  3. A mid-career pro is on stage, wowing the audience. Suddenly, an alarm sounds. A flurry of text alerts go off, advising everyone in the room of a weather emergency. 🌪️The on-stage performer is so afraid, she feels like fleeing.

When “being authentic and keepin’ it real” means puking, crying, and/or running away — you’ll want to consider other options. If you feel afraid: it’s 100% OK to muster up courage and instead show confidence.

A one minute video, where I offer a little pep talk to a nervous speaker…

If you’re standing in front of an audience, you’re in a leadership position. Your fear can spread like a contagion. For the good of your audience, you can’t risk starting a panic by acting on your worst fears.

You need to show courage. You need to be brave.

It you want to be self-deprecating, you can call your real bravery ‘fake it ’til you make it’. That’s cool. I get it. I think it’s a shame, though…

Social pressure forces you to re-frame your “real bravery” as “fake confidence”.

…but I see you. When you say ‘fake it ’til you make it’ – I know who you really are. You’re my favorite kind of person.

You’re brave. When you feel scared, but carry on with confidence – that’s almost the dictionary definition of courage.


So let’s say you’re faking confidence…does this mean you’re an impostor? In a word, no.

I know social pressure can be a monster, though. You’ve probably heard voices say “fake” anything is wrong and bad.

Social conditioning may have laid a vicious head trip on you. It’s an ugly voice telling you any display of confidence needs to be “real” not “fake”. It’s this dreadful and simplistic notion of:

“fake always bad; real always good!”

News flash: sometimes, real confidence can be a real disaster. Further, a wellspring of heartfelt self-assurance is not likely to magically radiate out of a real expert who is suddenly thrust into a completely unfamiliar situation.

It’s why experts practice and drill. It’s why we rehearse and edit. It’s why we put ourselves in new and challenging situations.

We need to develop more than a shallow “just be authentic” form of self awareness. How can you “just be yourself” if you don’t really know yourself… or how you might act in unfamiliar situation? How do you work with authentic “fight or flight” instincts that might not serve you well?

Thoughtful, introspective people choose continuous learning. They’ll often pick an environment like a classroom or workshop to build experience, knowledge, and confidence.

Smart people don’t sit around and hope for confidence to magically appear when they need it the most. They go out of their way to develop and nurture it with training and practice.

Consider these three learning scenarios where almost everything is fake:

  1. In beginning public speaking classes, we practice physical exercises in a friendly environment. When we work on techniques and gain experience speaking in front of others; we start to feel less afraid. 🦋
  2. In speech workshops, speakers receive feedback. They may decide to tweak their content structure and word choices before going public. Editing and coaching often improves messaging.  ❤️
  3. In crisis communication sessions, we drill on worst case scenarios that have yet to happen. We role play to be mentally, physically, and emotionally prepared to face tough challenges. 🌪️

In each case, we’re not being 100% authentic. The classroom is a simulation, not reality. Through learning, we build confidence.

When you’re navigating through difficult and complex issues, be aware of nuance. Instead of a clinging to simple gut-level truisms; consider serving a higher truth.


Laura Bergells is a writer, teacher, and a #LinkedInLearning author. Check out her courses on Crisis Communication and Public Speaking. New this month: Establishing Credibility as a Speaker.

You can find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.