Presenting For The Plain Terrified!

“There are only two types of speaker in the world. 1. The nervous and 2. Liars!”
Mark Twain

What are you doing to make the rest of this year the most outstanding yet for your business? Perhaps you’ll be wanting a higher profile by doing presentations and public speaking?

The Spotlight’s On You!
You stand up. You look out on a sea of faces. You hope to deliver your message in a compelling and interesting way. You break into a sweat, your heart races and your stomach flaps with butterflies. What’s worse – your hands shake, your knees knock, your mouth goes dry, your voice develops a tremor. And your mind goes completely blank.

Of the 10 most dreaded things in life, 2000 people who were asked, said that giving a presentation came third on the list after the death of a spouse.

These fears are normal. They are your body’s way of helping you take action when being pursued by a hairy mammoth. However, what helped you escape from the hairy mammoth can be a nuisance if you get an overdose before a presentation. So you’d prefer the hairy mammoth?

Let’s look at ways you can be helped to make this enjoyable experience for you and your audience.

Overcoming Your Gulp Factor!

Planning your speech:

  • If possible, make contact with a few members of your future audience and ask them what they expect to hear from you. Then aim your talk at answering those expectations.
  • Practise your speech standing up.
  • Just memorise the main points: remember the order so you can maintain the flow of the talk and ad lib now and then. It will make you feel more confident and better prepared.
  • Instead of anticipating the worst (never a good idea!), rehearse your presentation as though it were a triumph; your audience has lapped up whatever you have told them and the decision makers are utterly charmed and won over. Smile whilst you are visualising this scene ever if your smile is artificial. This will encourage the release of endorphins, the feel-good hormones that imprint warm associations onto your picture. And whatever you imagine vividly enough, your unconscious mind will believe has already happened so inject your performance with the confident expectation of success.

On the day:

  • Go for a walk or run. Action diminishes fear.
  • Tense your body, then let it go limp. Try that a few times. You need to change terror into excitement.
  • Nerves are extremely useful. If you accept and welcome them, you are no longer enslaved by them. You can then direct them positively to give a compelling peak performance.
  • It can give you a psychological boost to have something between you and the audience – a table or a lectern. Just ask the organisers if it’s possible.
  • Never tell your audience – they will get anxious on your behalf.
  • Take a deep breath, breathe out slowly dropping your shoulders, then begin. This will get your audience listening to you and give you time to concentrate on what you want to say.
  • Often when people are nervous, they rush their speech. It then becomes more likely that their mind goes blank and they lose their audience. Take your time and it will help your audience get on board your ‘thought train’.
  • Emphasise the first word in your sentence (to command attention) and the last word (so that you don’t run out of breath).
  • Research has shown that you cannot hold 2 thoughts in your head at the same time. If you focus on what you want to say, you cannot keep thinking about how scared you are.
  • If you do panic or freeze, just take your time to look at your notes and take a deep breath. Your audience will appreciate that time to be able to catch their thoughts too.
  • It was YOU who was chosen to give this speech. If someone in the audience was more knowledgeable they’d have asked THEM. So please stop thinking that you don’t deserve to be speaking.
  • Involve your audience by asking questions. It’s a great way to build rapport and gets them to do some of the work. If you come to any of my presentations, I start it by asking my audience 3 questions.
  • FIND YOUR FANS. Look into your audience to pick out those who are really listening: they smile, they blink, they nod – often in your rhythm and maybe mirroring you. They are the ones that give you energy. Concentrate on them.

I’m not pretending that presenting is a stroll in the park. It takes practice. Ironically, the more you stand up in front of other people, the more you get used to presenting and your nerves lessen. Just in the way that the Furies tormenting Orestes became the Eumenides – the Blessed Ones, so your tormenting and undermining fears will become the very same energies which give your presentation it’s brilliance and compelling magnetism.


About anrah

Anrah is a business development consultancy specialising in helping senior women in engineering and science, their teams and doctoral students increase 'presence', improve communication and generate impact to win stakeholder buy-in at the highest level.
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2 Responses to Presenting For The Plain Terrified!

  1. Bryan Knight says:

    Excellent advice. I’m going to link to it from a new page on my site.

  2. anrah says:

    Thanks alot, Bryan. Much appreciated.

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