By Jeremy Nelson
[Jeremy Nelson has been with the Skillset team for four years. He is a skilled presenter and trainer with extensive experience as an actor.]
Ever had thoughts like “They are not going to like me?”, “I hate doing this?”, “They are going to see right through me?” and “I’m not good enough?”.
All of those negative thoughts start to pile up on each other and we can start to feel anxious - which will come out in different ways in the presentation for example: excessive sweating or a shaky voice.
How do we overcome those thoughts?
What do all those phrases have in common? They all have the word ‘I’ or ‘me’ in them. There has been no thought of the people that the presentation is for.
The key mental shift to alleviate the anxiety is to replace the ‘I’ and ‘me’ thoughts with “I want you to get this”. That sentence simply changes the focus from the us to the audience, which helps get us out of our head and concentrating on the people in front of us.
Two more ways to deal with anxiety
It is very normal to have these emotions beforehand and reminding oneself that it is ‘Ok’ to have them, may help. It is the body’s way of getting ready with some excess energy.
Putting it into perspective
A friend of mine was in the car park of a hospital about to start a first time shift that she was very anxious about doing. As she approached the hospital with her bundle of nerves she bumped into an old friend she hadn’t seen for a long time. They got chatting as to why they were there, and to my friend's surprise heard that her old friend was finding out that day whether she had breast cancer. My friend although still having some nerves started the shift with a lot greater perspective on the reality of her own situation.
Here's the self-delusion many of us adopt when speaking in front of an audience. It's the big body-cred lie we tell ourselves that makes public speaking so much more difficult than it needs to be: I lose credibility because I'm too ........................................... Too what? Hairy? Bald? Fat? Skinny? Young? Old? Lumpy? Wrinkled? Saggy? Naff? Pigeon-toed? Etc... etc... Look in the mirror and choose your own.
No don't do that, because here's the point:
It's a lie to think that your size, shape, colour, age (or any other body state) has anything to do with your credibility in front of an audience - unless you believe that it does.
And there's the real problem - the self-fulfilling prophecy. The audience senses the fear behind the belief, and promptly lowers its opinion of us. My job is to train people to speak confidently. I have seen many hundreds whose bodies will never strut on a catwalk fill their audiences with unreserved admiration and respect. Those audiences don't care about the presenter's body because he or she is not worried about it.
Why do so many believe the big body-cred lie?
Because we're subconsciously seeking tangible explanations for why speaking in public makes us feel so nervous. But the enemy is not your physical imperfections, it's the feeling of fear. An ancient truth: fear is indeed the greatest enemy.
Not convinced yet?
Then look at some jaw-dropping proof of what is possible. Follow this link to see one of my heroes - Australian Nick Vujicic. You'll see immediately why I chose him. If he can bypass the limitations of his body and astonish the crowd with his personal authority and credibility, then we all can. I wish I had seen this when I was a skinny teenager afraid to take my shirt off if any girl was closer than the horizon.
Seen it? Then you've got the point. Please, if you believe that your body is an obstacle to your personal authority and speaking credibility, it's time to be rid of that self-destructive belief. The obstacle is a mirage. Get through it. Get over it.
One more thing. Nick Vujicic says, "It is a lie to think that you're not good enough." And he's not just talking about speaking in public.