Just recently I did a training presentation for one of the large Harcourts real estate franchises. At the end of the hour and a half session their training manager asked me if there were any tips or suggestions on how to overcome nervousness. I mentioned a couple of things but, as you do, I thought about them afterwards and realized I’d ‘undercooked’ my reply.
So I thought I’d share with you my view on the five things we should know about overcoming nervousness.
The first is that when we are talking or presenting our focus should always be on the other person or our audience. As I’m fond of saying, “It’s not about us, it’s about them”. We concentrate on how we can best assist them, on the best solutions or ideas we have for them and how we intend to deliver our message – for them. What that does is to take our attention away from ourselves. We stop thinking about us and about how we feel and think about our audience instead. That takes the pressure off us. It reduces our anxiety about our own performance as we focus on our message.
The second key is practice. I believe in the five ‘P’s. “Plenty of practice prevents pathetic performance.” The more we practice, in our minds, in front of the mirror or our family and friends the better. We can also use video, CD or tape (audio) to hear and see how we are doing. The feedback can really assist improve our presentation. All these increase our familiarity with our material. The more familiar it is the less daunting presenting it becomes. Practice is a powerful tool to reduce fear.
The third is an understanding that nervousness is normal. In fact it’s not only normal, it’s essential. Nervousness is a form of fear. It’s the release mechanism for the adrenalin that gives us that edge which contributes to producing our best. Just as in our primordial past when we were faced with danger, that menacing sabre-tooth tiger, the adrenalin kicked in to assist us fight or flee. In our case it’s less dramatic but equally effective. It assists rather than hinders us. So we acknowledge the nervousness as part of the process – just another part – and move on.
The fourth is taking our mind off our nervousness. Having acknowledged the nerves, start thinking about something else. Invariably I’ll switch my thoughts over to rehearsing, in my mind, my speech’s opening and close. I concentrate, rehearsing them again and again. Not only does it help calm the nerves but it also ensures that when I say those lines they’ll come out the way I want. Given that our opening and close are the more critical parts of our presentations this is a constructive use of pre-presentation time.
Last point – what do we do when we’ve been dumped on with an unexpected request for a presentation? It’s too easy to panic. Instead we go straight for our close – the message we want to get across. We sort that out in our minds. Then we work on the opening – how we can capture interest in what we have to say? Having done that, we assemble the ideas, arguments and benefits that support our message and make up the body of our presentation. Should we only have time for the close at least we go into the presentation focused on what is most important.
Working on that sequential three step approach can substantially reduce the time, and the nerves, involved in those unexpected assignments.