Jun 17, 2011

4 Tactics That Did Not Make Me Less Nervous When Presenting

I have been nervous, or even terrified before speaking and presenting, except in every day talks with my team. And I was called great presenter and speaker, by the audience later. The worry did not materialize, yet it was always there. It still is but to much less degree.

I had to, and I did deal with it. Running away, or cancelling was not an option, although it came to mind.

When you know there is no way back, you only have to survive enough to grab the opportunity to stand out and do great job of presenting. I mean really good, not just your ego talking, not just your friends or subordinates making you feel good.

I was looking (like many of you) for the effective tips to calm my nerves before and during presentations.

Here are the tactics I found in the past that did not work for me:

1. Imagining audience naked

This is one of the oldest tricks I heard somewhere, but never had luck with it. If this advice was going around for so long it is possible it worked for some?! Have you tried?

Can't remember when (if ever) was the last time I imagined someone without clothing on, let alone a group of people. Well, that is a lot imagining. And if ladies are present, would I need to imagine them, too? Ouch. Not used to it at all. Maybe I am just hopeless in imagining, or this is not option for me, although I worked with good-looking guys, so it can't be like their fault for putting me off.

Good looking or not, I am not managing to bring myself to imagine my audience with shirts, jackets or (God forbid) boxer shorts off.

2. Positive affirmations

These are the words or phrases, positive statements repeated to ''reprogram subconscious mind and often to positively influence our behavior/overcome negative area.'' Here is one that has been around for decades:

''Every day in every way I am getting better and better.'' One of positive affirmations I have found on presentations is:

''I am full of confidence, I speak clearly, my presentation is a huge success!''

You are supposed to repeat affirmation as often as you can. I felt resistance towards this and read it is a sign of my subconscious resisting this information. Maybe I should have done it for months, together with visualization (of standing ovations). I just can't bring myself to go for it (yet).

3. Thinking ''I know more/better than anyone here.''

This was the advice of a seminar leader I worked with when I was a young consultant. Amazingly this was coming from one of the worst presenters I have seen and heard. I could not believe the woman's confidence, ego and ignorance. She claimed she was never nervous due to this conviction.

Good for her nervous system, I suppose, but it still did not make anyone think she really knew more than anyone, or presented better than anyone.

She would confront the audience or enter the verbal argument with member of the audience who would challenge any of the statements she made. Not good when you want to sell, convince, or get hired.

The best I manage is '' I know my presentation better than anyone.'' or ''I learnt about my audience/care about my audience more than anyone. '' That helps after I make sure it matches reality.

4. Popping a pill, a sedative, or something like that.

Some folks are using this ''until their anxiety starts to subside...by time.'' Any kind of pill, tablet, even a painkiller makes me feel uncomfortable. So, I'd rather not take it, unless I absolutely have to. Call me paranoid, but am worried how much I might start needing these things as an ''easy way out.'' Actually I never tried it, so not sure if it would be a way out.

I prefer to believe that my nerves will help me me produce my best work, turn into passion, creativity, and ''survival resources.'' And that the more I face the fear the less it has the power over me. (this doesn't apply to adventures including exotic animals, extreme sports etc.)

OK, I admit to once having one shot of scotch before a VIP lunch I (suddenly) had to speak at. One time. I wasn't drunk, just not so sure about over 100 other people, mostly top executives and diplomats.

If any of these strategies work for you, feel free to leave a comment. Maybe you have some other tips to share?

My best strategy (so far) has been to prepare, prepare and prepare, focusing on the audience and believing they will be on my side and tolerate imperfection as long as I was giving them relevant valuable content delivered in an interesting/memorable way. I described the steps to create great content in the video series ''Present Better Than Ever & Anyone''.

If you missed the first three videos of video series you can see them in 30 mins, and start improving now. To hear from me again, receive the following two parts of this course full of hand picked best strategies and tips delivered to your inbox, join the mailing list now if you are not subscribed already.

It is perfectly normal to be nervous. Just prevent being too nervous that you can not give your best.

I will soon post new video to help you deliver great presentation with great confidence and present better than ever. If you would like me help you prepare your next presentation, or work with you/your team on improving your style and confidence (hands-on) send me an e-mail and we will schedule a free initial consultation.

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