Presentation anxiety is a normal part of most presenters’ experiences.
You have a goal. You know your audience. You have compiled and organized your content. You are determined to be a trustworthy guide for those who listen. Finally, you are ready to make a Big Presentation in a Small Room.
And now it is time to get up and deliver your message.
How are you feeling? Are you stressed? Do you have presentation anxiety?
HARNESS PRESENTATION ANXIETY?
It is not the stress that gets you; it’s how you think about it.”
When I read that, I had to look at it again. And again. And again.
At first glance, it looks like a condescending dismissal of the reality of stress. And if it were just that, I would dismiss it. Maybe curse it first, then dismiss it.
But what if…
What if it is true?
That could prove beneficial to millions.
Stress is a daily reality in the work-life of countless people around the world.
One source of stress is presentations.
What if that anxiety could be harnessed so that it creates positive energy rather than painful distractions?
The possibility captured my attention!
Here is what I learned.
HARNESS PRESENTATION ANXIETY BY REFUSING OLD WISDOM
When considering an upcoming presentation, the old sayings regarding stress are not helpful. For many presenters, they can create additional stress.
For example, you have a presentation in 30 minutes. As you make your way to the meeting room, you tell yourself
“Keep calm and carry on.”
“Calm your nerves.”
“Don’t stress. Don’t stress. Don’t stress.”
Is it working?
In my experience, such self-talk has often resulted in more stress. It does not work, and then I’m stressed about my inability to stop stressing!
Am I alone in this experience?
Thankfully, there is another way to address the stress, and it does not require us to talk ourselves out of it.
HARNESS PRESENTATION ANXIETY WITH BEACH THOUGHTS
Here is a sunny illustration.
Whenever we take a family vacation to the beach, I experience ocean waves in multiple ways.
When walking out into the water, I am going against the waves. The further I go, the deeper the water and the bigger the waves. Eventually, those waves will push me back and perhaps knock me over.
Sometimes, I will turn and wade parallel to the shore. The waves still hit me, but it is not as frustrating because I am not moving directly against them.
At other times, I will move back toward the shore and allow the waves to carry me to that destination.
The best experiences come when I remember to bring a board with me. Then I can ride the waves and make enjoyable progress!
In my experience, “the keep calm and carry on” approach is like walking into the waves and trying to keep my balance as the pressure mounts against me.
What if there were a way to approach the same stress to become more like having a board and riding a wave? That would be a lot more fun!
And it can be done.
It is all about the mindset.
I know this can sound overly optimistic. I get that. But stick with me. This idea has proven helpful!
HARNESS PRESENTATION ANXIETY WITH A NEW MINDSET
Let’s start by thinking about an exciting experience. What is it for you?
During my high school years, an upcoming game of basketball would get me excited.
Or a trip to an amusement park where massive roller coasters awaited me.
During this past summer, my wife and I enjoyed long road trips while delivering puppies from the breeder to the new pet owner. We would get up at 4:00 AM in Fort Worth, Texas. We would be on a strict schedule to make the delivery at a specific time on the following evening on the West Coast.
Those trips were exciting!
As you consider your exciting memories, think about your physical response when you were anticipating those experiences. Perhaps your heart rate was elevated; maybe there was adrenaline involved. Your hands might have been a little shaky. The symptoms made sense because you were excited!
Now consider your physical response to the anxiety of an upcoming presentation. Perhaps your heart rate is elevated, there is adrenaline involved, your hands might be a little shaky.
If you try to combat those physical symptoms, you are walking into the waves.
If you can reframe those physical symptoms as signs of excitement, then you will be riding the waves. You will be harnessing that energy with a positive mindset.
You are not afraid; you are excited. You are not stressed; you are looking forward to the experience.
The physical symptoms are your body’s way of preparing you to focus, have energy, and do a great job!
HARNESS PRESENTATION ANXIETY WITH A PRACTICAL APPROACH
Here is a practical application.
When you are setting up for presentation, and your hands shake with adrenaline, reframe your symptoms as excitement. Use that language when people ask you how you are doing or how you are feeling.
When they say, “Are you ready for this presentation? “How are you feeling?”
You say, “Yes. I am ready, and I am excited to get started!”
The physical symptoms that may be observable to the audience will make sense, given the description of your feelings. They match the signs of excitement. Own the diagnosis. You are ready, and you are excited.
Ride the wave. Harness the energy. Speak the excitement. You are ready; your body is prepared. You are going to do a great job!
Want to hear some encouraging instruction? Check out the Big Presentations Podcast!
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