Have a big presentation to make? Here’s how to control those butterflies for good.
If you break out in a cold sweat or even feel butterflies when you think about standing in front of others or even before a boss for a presentation or interview, you are not alone. The fear of public speaking is estimated to affect about 75 percent of adults. It’s completely normal.
Here’s the thing. Most speakers, beginners and veterans alike, readily admit to feeling nervous in the moments leading up to a big speech or presentation. The adrenaline surge can fuel your body with the energy and enthusiasm necessary for a great performance. Alas, a lot of people mistake it for fear and miss the opportunity for a great performance.
The trick is this – instead of trying to lose the butterflies, you should aim to leverage them.
So, whether you’re stepping to the front of the room to speak to just one person, a few people, or making a grand entrance in a ballroom to address thousands, here are ways to effectively use the moments before you present to prepare your body and mind for peak performance;
Talk positively to yourself:
Let us learn from the experts in sports psychology who have proven that an athlete’s positive self-talk prior to and during a performance consistently creates a higher win rate. In the minutes leading up to your presentation, say over and again within yourself words like; “You are a dynamic speaker!” “You are enthusiastic and engaging!” “You are prepared and confident!”
You can go ahead and write your own set of self-affirmations in the language that most appeals to you and confidently declare them. The only story that matters is the story you tell yourself.
Strike a power pose:
Take advantage of your alone time in the bathroom to strike what has been dubbed a “power pose”.
Power pose has been described as expansive and open stances where you take up a lot of space and hold your arms and legs away from your body. Psychologists say that when you expand your body, your mind starts to feel more confident and powerful and might begin to see those challenging situations not as threats but as opportunities.
Go ahead and take several deep belly breaths:
Anxiety tightens the muscles in the chest and throat, so it’s important to diminish that restricting effect with deep inhalations.
Do not underestimate the power of a long, slow, deep breath. It maximizes the amount of oxygen that flows to the lungs and brain; interrupts the adrenalin-pumping ‘fight or flight’ response; and triggers the body’s normal relaxation response. In the minutes or seconds leading up to your presentation, breathe deeply and deliberately.
Don’t force the nervousness away:
If you’re nervous before your presentation, pretending not to be can actually make things worse. Body language experts warn that hiding your feelings of anxiety from observers, which they call suppression, can actually lead to an increase in feelings of anxiety and heart rate. So, what you can do is reframe that nervous feeling as excitement, since both are states of high arousal.
This is where harnessing the power of the mind-body connection comes in. Here, you learn to use your thoughts to positively influence your body’s physical responses.
Practice the first minute in your mind:
Rehearse the first few sentences of your speech a few times. Whatever you’re planning to say as the captivating opener -a witty quotation, personal story, or startling statistic. Knowing exactly how you’re going to start gives you confidence and enables you to look directly into the eyes of audience members as you begin (not at notes or a slide), and creates a powerful first impression.
Speaking is something you can build up, no matter how much of a professional you think people are. If you realise you’re not good enough, work on your skills by joining Rotary clubs where you’ll be thought to speak. Watch your tapes or recording over and again, improve on mistakes, learn from your errors. Even the best athlete practice before the day of the competition.
Maintain a positive, pleasant expression on your face in the moments before and while you speak. Psychologists recommend smiling as it actually relaxes the body. It conveys confidence and self-assurance and shows your audience that you’re happy to see them and enthusiastic about your message. Be careful not to overdo it.
Focus on people who are responding:
The feeling that you aren’t connecting with your attendees can be extremely nerve-wracking and can be taken to a whole other level if there are people who appear completely disinterested. What you can do is to look out in the audience and find a few people who are nodding or responding to your story or points. There is a real sense of reassurance when someone is agreeing with you.
Be prepared to land if you crash:
Have you ever thought of what to do when you make a mistake? What would you do if you found yourself in Steve Harvey’s shoe, the Host of Miss Universe who mistakenly called the name of the first runner up as the winner of the competition?! Stop short, cry, and run out of the stage?
No matter how professional someone is and how long they have spoken, everyone makes mistakes. Funny thing is these mistakes that they’re scared of making, actually make people appear more human and come across as more relatable. But, when we become uncomfortable with slip-ups, then our audience becomes more uncomfortable as well. So, try preparing a comment douse the tension and make the audience laugh.
Your confidence comes from within. No one can create it for you. You won’t build confidence if you don’t take action. Get uncomfortable now so you can be comfortable when it’s time for you to prove your mettle. Never be afraid to try.
What are your questions or contributions? Do share with us in the comment section.