Imagine if you had no fear of public speaking. What would change in your life? Maybe you’d finally be able to pitch your project idea to management. Or maybe you would not get so anxious when presenting results to the board.
Almost everyone has some kind of fear of public speaking. For some of us, just the thought of standing up to speak can set our heart racing. Then, when it’s time to deliver, our breath becomes shallow and rapid, our body tightens and we sometimes lose our blink reflex and begin staring at the audience like a scared rabbit.
Don’t stress, a little bit of adrenalin before you stand up to present is a good thing. It’s called a ‘high-performance state’ and is something that all great performers harness to their advantage. However, if you have too much adrenalin it can be debilitating.
Toning down the stress and anxiety you’re feeling before a presentation or big meeting is easier than you might think. Once you overcome your nerves, you’ll find that your presenting skills skyrocket. In fact, combating your speaking fears is one of the most effective communication strategies you can master.
There are 3 key things you can do:
1. Pick the most productive frame
Start by recognising the notion of emotion. What do we mean by that? Simply, emotion is a feedback system – it’s a way of taking sensory information and applying meaning, which you can then use to describe how you feel in the moment.
Let’s look at what happens when your heart rate increases, your breathing changes and your muscles fill with blood. What’s really happening here? Your body has decided that it’s potentially at risk when it thinks of delivering the presentation and it’s getting your body ready to fight or flee. Your brain interprets that as an emotion called ‘nervous or scared’ and you start thinking fearful thoughts about failure.
But guess what? The biodata for feeling nervous is the same as when you’re excited! Yes, feeling nervous and feeling excited are produced from the same physical symptoms.
So all you have to do is take a deep breath, relax and choose the more productive frame. And, of course, the more productive frame is to approach a presentation or meeting with anticipation, not fear. After all, your body doesn’t know the difference. Anticipate it going well, and recognise that you have skills, knowledge and value to share.
2. Change your language
It’s important to reflect how you want to feel in your language. When you say, “I’m feeling nervous”, there are many associations with that emotion. For instance, “I could fail, I’m doubting myself, I’m experiencing anxiety, or I sense that there’s something imminently dangerous about to occur.” Other people could chime in with their own tales of terror and before you know it, you want to get a one-way ticket to the other side of the world rather than do this presentation!
Let’s change the language. Instead, say, “I’m really excited about what’s about to happen!”
The word ‘excited’ has different associations – anticipation, a heightened sense of awareness, and the expectation that something good is about to occur.
Sure, your heart will still be racing when you walk into the room. But it will be because you’re switched on, tuned in, alive, ready to perform, and prepared for show time!
In this way, you use the best language to optimise the outcome and get a peak result.
3. Future pace your presentation
Use future pacing to see yourself doing well in the moment. See yourself walking confidently, hear yourself using clean and clear language, feel yourself breathing and moving with comfort and ease. Imagine your audience listening and appreciating the insight and value that you will share.
This simple practice connects your body into a state of readiness, and gets you prepared. Remember that you are a custodian of knowledge and insight with years of experience, who can bring value to people’s lives.
So embrace that racing heart, recognise your capability and value and become filled with self-confidence before your next presentation or meeting!
To improve your confidence and communicate with ease, register now for our one day workshop The Confident Communicator. This workshop will give you the confidence to get your next big idea across the line.