Sweat was dripping down my back.

My voice was shaking.

I could hardly breath due to my nervousness.

It was the most anxious I had ever felt in my life.

I was a teenager about to speak in front of a group of people for the first time. I remember my discomfort and anxiety more than the words I said that day.

Even though I have now given thousands of presentations to audiences in all 50 states and even internationally, there’s always a bit of nervousness I have to channel before giving a keynote. I’m sure I’m not the only one experiencing this before something important happens.

Whether it’s giving a speech, making a sales presentation, leading an important meeting, or even jumping into something we’ve never done before, it’s important to approach a challenging task with confidence. When you feel confident going into a new situation, you are much more likely to have a successful outcome.

So how do you build confidence? I suggest there are two main components to real, successful confidence: preparation and mindset.

Obviously, you need to have some instruction or knowledge about what you are trying to accomplish. If you are giving a speech, you need to know what you are talking about, you need to know your audience, and you need to have mastered at least some basics of presenting. If you are delivering a sales presentation, you must know the product, your customer, and how to handle common objections. Confidence without the right preparation is foolhardy optimism. Always prepare.

But mindset is just as important. You can prepare your material thoroughly, but if you don’t have the right mindset, you’ll look like that sweaty teenager, uncomfortable and nervous, stumbling over his notes.

One of my pre-speech rituals involves taking a trip back in time to an August day on a beautiful glassy lake in Florida. I was in my mid 20’s and had decided that the day had come when I was going to be successful at accomplishing something I had never done before. That summer, I had been trying to learn how to tumble turn while bare foot skiing. I had tried it more than 100 times and had yet to be successful…until that day. With three of my closest friends in the boat, I performed 4 tumble turns in a row. My friends went crazy. Their enthusiastic celebration and feeling of accomplishment was euphoric. It shot my confidence through the stratosphere. I used that confidence to continue to learn new tricks on the water.

I now leverage that experience regularly before I speak. It’s the best way I know to ready my mind for an important task.

Undoubtedly, you will face stressful challenges. In order to triumph over them, it’s essential to go through all the necessary preparations. But even then, you still might feel nervous.

Before facing an intimating task, remember how you felt when you accomplished or experienced something big. Tap into the feeling you had at that time and remember or review what you have learned.

Then go out there and conquer this one.

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