How to conquer your biggest fear
Have you ever contemplated avoiding giving a presentation because you were scared of stuffing it up?
I worked closely with a client last year who was on the verge of booking an overseas flight so that he could avoid having to give an important presentation. He was so nervous about the prospect of presenting to his peers and managers. His behaviour and his thoughts had become jumbled and irrational. He was being driven by the fear of failure, the thought of being judged or even worse, possibly being “found out”.
Fortunately we were able to do some work together and he went on to deliver a very successful presentation.
It’s perfectly natural to get nervous before you present. I’d be more concerned if you weren’t feeling a few nerves. The nervous energy is a reminder that this matters to you and to some extent you are feeling the pressure. If you aren’t nervous, it indicates that you don’t really care how your presentation goes. The impact of that would be far worse than being a bit nervous.
The ability to stay calm under pressure often distinguishes the successful presenters from the less successful.
Here are 3 ideas to help you to handle your nerves the next time that you have to present:
- Take control of your internal dialogue
- Prepare properly
- Focus on your audience and react to them
1. Taking control of your inner dialogue
“What a great opportunity this is for me” is a lot better than “Why didn’t they choose Francesca to present this”. “I’m sure that I’ll be nervous” is a lot better than “I think I’ll probably forget what I wanted to say, sweat like an Alsatian, break out in a rash and throw up on my boss during the presentation”.
Knowing that you have prepared well will assist you with your internal dialogue. Pay close attention to the conversation that you are having with yourself in the lead up to your presentation. It’s OK to be nervous. It’s actually a very good sign.
Prior to the presentation remind yourself:
- You want to do this really well
- It’s natural to be a bit nervous
- This is a great opportunity
2. Prepare properly
For most people thorough preparation will make the most difference to how their nerves will affect the way they present. Take as much time as you think you need.
Preparing successfully normally involves:
- Thinking about your audience and what they would value from your presentation
- A few dress rehearsals – standing up and practice with the technology that you will be using
- Receiving feedback on your delivery style, structure and content
- A thorough editing process
- Practice again
3. Focus on your audience and react to them
Once your presentation starts all of your energy (NRG) must be focused on your audience. Nothing else matters. By concentrating more on them and worrying less about yourself, you will be surprised how quickly your levels of anxiety are reduced.
If they are looking bored, you need to do something different quickly. Stay alert to your audience and their needs.
If you keep worrying about how nervous you are then you are thinking far too much about yourself and not enough about them.
Next time an opportunity arises for you to present I suggest that you grab it with both hands. Presenting well is a great way to develop your career. Accept the fact that you will be a bit nervous.
If you keep running from your presentation fears you will never improve. In fact, in real terms, you will slowly get worse, as everyone around you will be improving. Be brave, look your fears right in the eye and have a red hot go. You will benefit enormously from the experience and next time won’t be quite as nervous.
In fact you will want to do it again.