Presenting under pressure. Performance anxiety. Stage fright. Call it what you want, but the incredible nervousness some people feel as soon as they stand up in front of an audience is real. And if your audience is your boss, it can really affect how you present. Unless you’re prepared for it.
“You’ve felt it. The knot in your stomach. The sweaty palms. The general disorientation. The feeling you have when someone asks, ‘Are you ok?’ ‘NO, I’m not ok. I have to give this presentation to my boss and I’m terrified!’ You can rest assured. I promise you, you are not alone!”
I am not a fan of the old advice, ‘Imagine everyone in the audience in their underwear.’ Depending on who’s out there, it could get distracting! Most people manage their jitters by doing one thing: They prepare.
Know your material
There is no greater tool you can have in your toolbox. Having a good handle on what you’re talking about gives you confidence, gives you the knowledge you need to handle any question that comes your way. Don’t just have a ‘general idea’ of what you’re going to say. Script it, if necessary. And whatever you do, don’t just ‘wing it.’ Lots of people try it. And frankly, it fails far more often than it succeeds.
Prepare your material
The old joke goes, ‘How do you get to Carnegie Hall?’ ‘Practice, practice, practice.’ Try your presentation out for people. Ask for their feedback. It seems simple, but asking for help is sometimes the hardest thing to do. Do it in front of a mirror. Save it on a voice recorder and play it back. Ask people to look at your slides (Here’s a good guide to building excellent slides).
Trust your material
Most of the time, your nerves are lies! Believe it or not, most managers/bosses/audiences/groups/colleagues want you to succeed. Do your work before you go in and know (and I admit there is no magic way to do this) that the stress and anxiety you feel is NOT REAL. Take a deep breath and know your audience wants you to do well. And if you feel those nerves again and it feels like the words are coming out of your mouth and you have no control over them, just stop a second, take that deep again and carry on.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Here are just a few posts for you to explore if you want to learn more on this topic.
- Train the trainer: interactive presentations
- Storytelling in presentations
- Sex, stress and public speaking