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I didn’t get this from the medical world, I got it from watching what happens to nervous people in my presentations training workshops.

Nervousness in presentations and what you can do

Imagine you’re about to speak to one of my groups. I ask you to be enthusiastic - standard stuff – but I also ask you to notice two signs immediately in front of you. One says YOU in red felt pen (your interest in yourself and your worries) and the other says AUDIENCE in green felt pen (your interest in them and how your stuff is going down with them). Your task is to shift from red to green. Get it? If you’re like most people, a genuine shift wipes out a heap of nervousness. You get more confident, make fewer mistakes, you’re more fluent, you look and sound good. It works well.

Here’s the point. In those who truly make that shift, I also see this:

  • Anxiety decreases and its symptoms decrease.
  • Physical pain decreases or vanishes altogether.
  • Some speech defects – such as stuttering – decrease or vanish altogether.

Sure, our flaws and defects come from what’s wired into brain and body. But they also come out of our beliefs about ourselves. Damaging beliefs take time to change. But in the meantime, we can instantly sidestep some of the symptoms – by focusing on someone other than ourselves.

Try this experiment

Next time you have a physical ailment - for example a painful cut or graze - make yourself go help someone who needs it. Even better if that help involves physical activity. As much as you can, make your motivation about them rather than about yourself. Watch how the level of your pain decreases. Seriously it's one of the best pain killers.

Now think about being in front of an audience, shifting your focus from you to them.

Get the point?


About Michael Brown

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Michael is a senior trainer with Skillset, based in Christchurch.

He is a leading authority on training in presentation and news media skills in New Zealand. He has special expertise in how to present emotionally-charged topics to challenging audiences. Michael has trained thousands of New Zealanders and worked with people who speak on behalf of some of the country's largest organisations.

Michael is a prolific author and his books on speaking and working with the media are in their fourth editions.

Speaking Easy: how to speak to your audiences with confidence and authority

Media Easy: how to handle the news media with confidence and authority

One of Michael's books is about his family's adventures sailing in the Pacific.

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