Fear Factor: What to do when the “worst-case scenario” happens.
By Ashley Denuzzo
You probably feel more nervous than you appear. In fact, a little nervousness before a presentation is a good thing; it keeps you on your toes and pushes out passion so you don’t appear arrogant or smug.
However, it’s those moments when your nervousness takes over your presentation where things get a little dangerous. You get in your head and physically feel unable to speak in front of an audience or talk about your subject. That’s when the presentation becomes less about your topic and more about your anxiety – this is where you need a strategy to eliminate your physical and emotional stress.
Do Something Physical Before the Presentation
Exercise and other forms physical activity produce endorphins – chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers. It just takes five minutes of aerobic exercise to start feeing the anti-anxiety effects of endorphins.
Release some stress and tension by working your muscles and body before the presentation. Take deep breaths and press your hands together to relieve some tension, do muscle-relaxation exercises like yoga or stretching, take a walk, run in place, do aerobics, whatever gets your body moving!
Practice Deep Breathing
Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness.
Before or during the presentation, concentrate on taking full, deep breaths. Oxygen will not only help calm your nerves but will also improve your voice projection.
Picture Yourself Only Doing the Right Thing
It’s all a mental game! Picture yourself only in a positive situation. Instead of imagining a judgemental and cold audience, imagine that they want to learn new ideas and understand different points of view.
Psychologists call this technique “cognitive restructuring,” and it’s used to help people identify, challenge and alter stress-inducing thought patterns. Many professional athletes use this technique before a big game.
Remember, nervousness is part of presenting. A little “motivational stress” is a good thing. However, when your stress becomes overwhelming, take a step back, breathe and remember that we’re all human and you are capable of not only getting through the presentation but also that you can wow your audience.
You can turn nervousness into energy.
We’ve all been there. Countless hours working on a presentation seems wasted when something glitches or goes horribly wrong. Maybe your slideshow decided to become corrupt overnight, or your audience cares more about what’s on their phone than what’s on your PowerPoint; or that dreaded anxiety has resurfaced and now your stomach is in knots.
Whatever your “worst-case scenario” is, we want to help you find a light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve composed a three-part blog series that looks at common presentation flubs and how to overcome those hurdles. You can’t control everything, but you can control how you react and respond when things go awry. And at the end of the day, your audience wants to remember you – not what happens to you.
This is the second article of a three-part blog series. Read Part One: When your Audience Isn’t Engaged. Stay tuned for Part Three: When Technology Fails.