In Praise of Humble Confidence

Today I want to very briefly discuss something that comes up over and over again when I coach business owners on how to deliver a great pitch: the art of projecting humility and confidence at the same time.

I spend a good amount of time coaching clients and other entrepreneurs for pitching to investors and/or pitching at competitions. One of the things that comes up over and over with the entrepreneurs I coach is that most have not mastered the art of projecting both confidence and humility at the same time. Generally, they’re either a bit cocky and defensive or they’re almost meek and apologetic. Neither is a good way to present yourself when trying to get an investment or win a competition.

If you put yourself in the shoes of the judge or investor, you’ll quickly understand why. The judge or investor is looking at the entrepreneur as much as she’s looking at the entrepreneur’s idea and she wants to know that this person is the right person to make this company into the next big thing.

If you come off as an arrogant know-it-all who is defensive when asked any questions or provided any feedback, the investor isn’t going to think that you’re someone who is coachable, open to the input of others, or curious and excited to learn. If you try to pretend like you have all of the answers, the investor is going to worry that your pride will get in the way of you asking for help when you need it, which could lead to the demise of your business and cost her her investment.

If you come off as timid, you’re not going to instill confidence because the investor’s reaction will be something along the lines of, “if he doesn’t even believe he can do this why should I believe he can do this?”

So how do you project humble confidence? This is really more about actually being confident and humble than projecting both confidence and humility, but to avoid splitting those hairs…

You can project confidence and humility at the same time by knowing your stuff, being passionate about your business and your plans for its growth, and being open to and honest about feedback. Make sure you know all of the details about your company and your market and your strategy so that you can convincingly answer most of the questions that are thrown your way, but also be willing to admit when you don’t have the answer. A graceful, “that’s a concern that’s on our radar and, while we don’t have the answer yet, these are some options we’re currently exploring,” will play far better than, “that’s not going to be an issue for us,” or “we’ve looked into it and it’s not as big a deal as you might believe it to be.”

Remember, nobody expects you to know everything or be an expert in every topic. What they do expect is for you to know where you need help and be willing to seek out the best answer when something arises. Your problem solving approach and ability is what they’re interested, not knowing if you’ve already predicted and solved every single problem that might ever come your way, because that would be impossible.


And don’t forget to support me as I rappel down the side of a 35-story building in downtown Chicago to raise money for minority and female entrepreneurs!


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