The night before an important presentation you have trouble sleeping. Your mind is racing. You’ve prepared, but you just can’t help feeling anxious.
Your thoughts run in rapid succession: What if I forget what I want to say? What if they don’t get it? What if the presentation doesn’t work? What if they don’t like what I have to say? I wonder if I can just call and cancel?
Then you wake up after a restless night and your stomach is full of monsters (butterflies are for sissies). Your breath is shallow and you just can’t concentrate. Your pulse is fast and you are starting to sweat. You can think of nothing else but the presentation, and how it can go wrong. Your dog is looking at you with confusion as you put your cell phone in his bowl and put his kibble in your briefcase.
You’ve got it bad! Presentation anxiety.
Turn Anxiety on it’s Head!
Of course you can reduce fear by preparing. But the reality is most of us will feel some amount of anxiety even if we have delivered this talk 20 times before. It’s natural. It’s human.
So instead of trying to ignore the anxiety or reduce your body’s reaction – turn anxiety on it’s head!
There are two parts to anxiety. One is your body’s reaction: sweaty palms, racing heart, shallow breath, monsters in your stomach.
The second part is how you think about your body’s reaction – your interpretation of it – how you feel about how you feel.
Most of us label these reactions as anxiety and fear. Then we go on to think about all the ways things can go wrong (racing mind before bed). We get stuck and can not make good decisions or solve problems (cell phone in the dog’s bowl).
You can not change your body’s reaction to a perceived threat (public speaking) but you can change the way your mind interprets your body’s reactions.
Think about it. When you are excited your body often has the same response: racing heart, sweaty palms, shallow breath. But you are excited, not sacred.
You are looking forward to….that concert, seeing your friends, opening your gifts on Christmas morning! You think about the possibilities, not the problems.
So when you find yourself anxious before a presentation, take hold of that energy your body is giving you – grab it by the neck if you have to – and use it to pump yourself up!
Step 1: Express yourself with the right language. Just changing the label of that physical reaction actually does have impact. For example: as you stand waiting to deliver that talk and someone asks ‘how do you feel’ instead of saying ‘nervous’ say ‘Excited!’
Step 2: Expend your energy on what will go right. Instead of thinking about what will go wrong, focus on what will go right. Sing, if you have to. Really. Pick out a powerful anthem that works for you – that speaks to you – and sing it in your head or even in the car before you go ‘on stage.’
Do you have presentation anxiety?
I say Bring it on!
Embrace the angst of presenting. It’s part of life!
You are presenting all day long. Every time you share an idea – whether you are in the boardroom, in a webroom, or across the table – you are presenting.
Presenting is communicating an idea.
Presenting with impact and influence means you get your idea across to your audience and it somehow changes them. It changes them so much they are ready to take action.