3 Steps to Presenting with Confidence and Composure
I’m putting together a new programme to help people with their fear of making presentations. The clients are technically savvy and have been making competent presentations and achieving their desired outcomes, so why do they need training? Well, like many people it’s taking its toll on them emotionally and psychologically because they feel nervous and uncomfortable standing up in front of a group of people. Let’s be honest we aren’t going to turn this round with a tips sheet. We form our beliefs in an instant and spend many years re-enforcing them for good or ill. That’s why the programme will over two days with time in between for experimentation, practice and reflection. However, I do have some suggestions that you can apply instantly to calm your nerves, if this topic strikes a chord with you.
When I was much younger and didn’t know any better I dreaded making presentations. I would have a running commentary going through my head saying things like “I mustn’t drop my notes” “I don’t want to make a fool of myself” “I hope I don’t blush.” But our minds don’t handle negative messages well. We unconsciously delete the “don’t” bit and focus on the rest. Want proof?
Don’t think of a pink elephant!
I’d like to bet you immediately pictured a pink elephant didn’t you? You deleted the don’t. So in my case my mind was hearing, “drop my notes” “make a fool of myself” “blush!” To overcome this, make a note of your negative automatic thoughts and change them into more helpful ones. E.g. “my notes are organised and numbered” “the audience are supportive and want me to do well” “I am feeling calm and relaxed”
Many coaches and trainers recommend seeing yourself delivering a perfect presentation, and if this works for you, go for it. What I find is that for some people it’s more effective to start by imagining the presentation with the things you are worried about, actually happening, and visualising yourself dealing with them calmly and confidently. For example, if you fear drying up, visualise drying up and you pausing, taking a sip of water to gather your thoughts and then continuing. If you fear losing your place or missing out a big chunk of the presentation, visualise that, and using a strategy such as having the audience turn to the person next to them and discussing a key learning for them so far, while you go through your notes and regroup.
If you are scared at the thought of a sea of faces looking at you, plan to engage the audience early. When you get a smile, a nod of recognition, a ‘aha’, or a response to a question, it breaks the ice, helps you to relax and builds rapport. Getting even minor interaction from the start is much more energising and effective for you and for your audience.
What do you do to calm your nerves before and during presentations?
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