Do you also get nervous or fear presenting in public?
Whether you are a CEO, consultant or a soccer mom you not alone!
My friend Andy Lopata even wrote a book called, “And Death Came Third”; based upon an old NY Times survey. It revealed that those who were asked felt speaking in front of colleagues, followed by speaking in front of strangers, were both feared more than death itself!
Now a few decades later, most basic presentation courses still focus on word choice, structure and rhetoric. But when it comes to your pounding heart, lack of breath, sweaty palms and shaky knees, the best solution still offered for your nervousness is, “Practice makes perfect“. Understanding and practicing presentation structure and rhetoric definitely helps to minimize your fear of speaking, but will that do it for you?
It didn’t for me; especially after my classmates forced me from the stage when my mouth froze shut from the terror I felt from presenting our report. Since that nightmarish experience, I have been studying the mechanics of body language, especially focusing on presentation technique. For over 20 years now, I have held successful workshops in effective presentation technique and efficient body language. For me, the positive comments and presents I have received from happy, empowered participants seems proof that if we can now enjoy presenting, so can you!
So, if you wish to empower yourself to better express your message at a parent/teacher meeting, want to feel even more at home presenting to prospective, yet skeptical buyers or calm down angry shareholders, below are four simple, almost boring tools. Each tool can drastically and effectively help you calm you down and empower you to deliver a clearer, more powerful and actionable message.
These four simple but effective tools to handle your presentation fears are:
· Inspired breathing
· Serve more and perform less
· Remain present
· Unite rather than separate from your listeners
These tools may first appear to be too simple and boring to consider. If so, consider this, how good have all those complicated and expensive tools worked in relieving your presentation nervousness? Even worse, how many times have you bit your tongue and remained silent on something important because you were too scared to speak out?
If you are serious about enhancing your self-expression and getting more stuff done, then simply try the following:
You can either inspire yourself and others by breathing more, or you can stop breathing and hope to survive your presentation. Beware that if you stop breathing long enough, you will expire. The more and deeper you breathe, the more you relax. The more you relax, the more each cell in your body will resonate with your message.
Just like a flute, saxophone or tuba, the more air that flows through a wind instrument, the richer its tone becomes. By using our lungs, vocal chords and mouth, aren’t we also wind instruments? Yet we sometimes get nervous or scared and when we do, we breathe less or stop breathing altogether. The more air used also allows for better sound control.
Practice breathing more deeply and consciously to inspire both yourself and those listening. The more relaxed you become, the more easily your message will resonate. The more of you that resonates, the more each of your cells vibrate with your message.
Isn’t it true for you too that the deeper and richer the speaker’s voice is, the more easily you believe the speaker’s message? Consciously take in more air and see if you too resonate more inspiration and believeability.
Serve More and Perform Less:
Standing for and presenting from a platform of service, rather than trying to perform for your ego is a surefire way to calm your fears while increasing your presentation efficiency. Performing, in this case, means trying to please your ego. Ego shows up as that little voice in your head. The one that constantly tells you what you should do and what you could have done better. In reality, this is your internal thought process and only exists deep inside your head. It has nothing to do with the reality of those people listening to you here and now. That voice is an abstraction buried in your mind. Reality is where measurable change can occur.
The more you train to focus upon serving those listening in front of you with a healthy dose of curiosity and intention, the more you can consciously connect with them and create measurable results. Just like a waiter who “disappears” into the background of a tasty dinner conversation, serving your listeners allows you to “disappear” into their richer and more actionable experience. With practice, increasing your level of service also lowers the volume of your little, internal voice and lessens the fear of the scary thoughts it imparts. Thus, serving more and performing less is a win/win for you and your listener.
Staying present with your audience rather than retreating up into your thoughts and fears is the most effective way to reduce or eliminate your fear of presenting. Presence allows you to communicate better. What scares us most is not presenting, but our fear about all those thoughts of what can go wrong when we do. Again, if you can eliminate that little voice in your head representing ego and increase your level of service, you will automatically dampen or eliminate the source of your fears.
Simple, right? Not if you are sure that little voice is you!
Yet, is this true?
What if that voice is just a program containing a bunch of scary thoughts?
Keep in mind that if that little voice is you, then who do you suppose is listening?
When you really begin to distinguish that little voice and all those scary thoughts as a program, or just another subset of you, you can then begin to adjust or pay less attention to them. You become the programmer rather than the program.
Then you can also change the channel and tune into empowering thoughts instead.
Finally, just as if you happen to lose your arm, you would still be you, right?
The same goes when you remain present by training to pay less attention to what’s going on between your ears and focus more on serving who is in front of you. Remaining present eliminates distance between you and your listeners and allows you to effectively tackle their concerns, here and now.
Uniting with rather than separating from your listeners:
Connecting more with your listeners by using the above tools is an effective way to unite with your audience. Now, physically walk towards them and you will also sense an increase in connection. Practice asking them more thoughtful questions, listen attentively to their answers and watch your engagement with each other develop further. All of these simple service tools and tips will bring you closer together. They will help create stronger feelings and deepen the relationship between you and your listeners. After all, who do you trust and believe in more, someone you feel you have a relationship with, or someone trying to separate themselves from you?
Still not convinced?
Stand in front of a full-length mirror. Cross your arms and move away from your image. Get a sense how more distance increases your feeling of separation.
Now, walk towards your image, take a few inspiring breaths of air and open up your arms and unite with that person you see. Sense any difference now?
Be more present, inspire, serve, and unite more and enjoy speaking
How many times have you heard others talk about all of these simple tools?
Yet how often have you consciously applied them when standing up and speaking?
Each one alone is powerful, so you can begin by practicing your favorite. Notice how much more connected you feel. Begin combining them and marvel at your increasing level of self-confidence. Take on mastering them and enjoy how much richer your life gets.