A certain amount of nervousness before a presentation is normal...and even positive. Most every professional who gets up before an audience -- whether it's a sports figure, a musician or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company -- experiences it to some degree. Nervousness keeps you alert and focused.
[Note: the wonderful story about the musician is compliments of Laura Athavale Fitton's blog Great Presentations Mean Business]
But mind-numbing, knee-buckling, butterflies-on-a-roller-coaster-in-your-stomach nervousness isn't positive. It negatively impacts your success.
THE GREMLIN ON YOUR SHOULDER
Nervousness is a mindset, pure and simple. Sure it has physical manifestations (more on that in Part 2), but it starts in your head. That little gremlin who constantly sits on your shoulder and whispers things in your ear...otherwise known as your self-talk...works overtime when you are getting ready for a presentation. It whispers self-defeating things like..."you'll forget what you wanted to say", "you won't know the answers to the questions they ask", "you'll sound stupid", "everyone will know more than you do", "everyone will be bored".
WHAT TO DO
Coach (or threaten) the gremlin to replace the negative self-talk with these positives:
- The audience wants you to succeed. They don't want to come to the conclusion that they are wasting their time, so they're pulling for you to be great.
- You have the knowledge that your audience needs.
- Your audience doesn't know you're nervous. And short of you collapsing in a shaking mass, they won't.
- Visualize yourself, while preparing and particularly just before starting the presentation, as a calm, competent speaker ready to meet and exceed your audience's expectations.
- Focus on the audience and what they need, not on yourself and how you're feeling. The more you can embrace the fact that it's not about you, it's all about them, the less nervous you will be.