Take control & stop worrying about presentations…
Some people naturally ooze confidence from every pore and seem to glide through life with never an awkward moment. A young man I’ve known since infant-hood could, at the age of 4, talk happily at the front of the classroom; at the age of 12, comfortably talk off the cuff to a crowd of parents following a rugby game; and as an intern, make a presentation to over 400 senior colleagues and business people.
But, we are not all made that way. Some people are born tall, some short, some confident and others painfully shy. However, if you are born tall, there is not much you can do to help yourself, apart from perhaps dressing a little differently but there is something you can do about having a lack of confidence.
To gain confidence all you need is a commitment to make a change, and a few, specific strategies to help you through. If you really want to, you can stop worrying about presentations, and maybe even, dare I suggest it, get to a point where you begin to enjoy the buzz.
First of all you need to review your thought processes. How do you prepare yourself for the type of situations that shake you?
Thought processes & mental preparation
Next time you have a presentation sit quietly and observe how you think and feel about it. Taking the negative route and downward spiraling can often be a habit that we get into. If you change that thought process to something far more positive, you will see a different outcome.
Do not compare yourself to other people
We do not do ourselves any favours by comparing ourselves to other people. Not everyone who appears confident is comfortable and in control of everything they do. The young man I referred to earlier was paralyzingly afraid of taking formal exams, despite having the ability to retain information very well.
Don’t compare how you feel on the inside to how someone is projecting themselves on the outside. You will be comparing apples with pears. Confidence should not be held in awe; confidence is something we can all have, so do not let yourself be intimated by it. Just become more self-aware about your thought processes and work hard to adapt new, positive ways of thinking.
Visualise confidence as a yellow bubble around you
Sit quietly and imagine confidence as a yellow bubble, in which you can easily step inside. Imagine how the confidence flows around you, makes you feel warm and safe. Close your eyes and see yourself stepping inside, feel the glow and the warmth of the bubble. Do this a few times in the days leading up to the presentation, and again, if possible an hour or so before.
While you are doing this, set yourself, what NLP refers to as an anchor. You can easily do this by pressing your left thumbnail into your left index finger in a pulsing motion.
Take a memory where you were doing something you really enjoy, maybe lunch with friends, or family. Perhaps, reading a good book by the fire. Close your eyes, what can you see? What can you hear? Replay how you feel.
Within your minds-eye, look around you and re-establish the setting. Think about the detail that you can see. Describe to yourself how it feels to be so confident. Make this feeling of confidence as strong and vivid as you can.
Continue to reinforce this anchor, and every time you feel the confidence, press the anchor again. Each time you do so, let the feeling of confidence double. Always associate the emotional feeling of confidence with the physical sensation of the anchor.
If confidence is an issue, then you need to be doubly prepared and feel in control. So, the following checklist may help (create one for any situation that causes you to feel nervous)
- Check and double check the presentation slides – are the facts right, is the sequence right, do they say everything the audience wants to hear
- Read everything out loud first by yourself and then test on someone else and ask for feedback
- Check timings and pace
- Are the visuals appropriate and supporting the messages
- Equipment – do you know how to use it – if not practice beforehand
- Anticipate questions from the audience and the responses you will give
- Try to know your script without reading from it. This helps to project your own personality which is better than sounding stinted and flat
- Know what you are going to wear – check it – buttons, hems, cotton threads hanging – you know the type of stuff that can make you feel less than on top form
- Think about any stage or steps you may have to go up or down and then think footwear
Give yourself a pep talk
Reinforce positive messages and personal strengths. Consider those things you know you are good at, consider your strengths, other challenges you may have overcome.
And finally… imagine a successful & triumphant you!
Close your eyes and visualise you stepping away from the rostrum. Hear the applause from the audience, see the smiles of colleagues. And remember, that 70% of the audience are thinking… ‘I couldn’t have done that’.