When I tell people that I am a professional trainer, working with clients to develop their public speaking and presentation skills, very often the first thing that comes out of their mouth is: “I could never stand up and talk to a group of people. I get too nervous!”
This is where their problem starts!
This blog will focus on how you communicate with yourself internally (your own self-talk) and how this determines whether you deliver a powerful presentation or not.
The reason people get so nervous during the build up to a presentation is because they use disempowering language/internal talk with themselves and also to others, describing everything going wrong.
This causes them to focus on what they don’t want to happen instead of what they do.
It works like this – you cannot think about what you don’t want to think about without thinking about it first. For example, if I were to say to you: “Don’t think of a blue sky”, what is the first thing you think about? A blue sky – right?
So, if during the build up to a presentation you are saying things like the following, you become disempowered:
- “I hope I don’t forget what I am going to say”.
- “I hope I don’t trip up”.
- “I hope I don’t get laughed at”.
- “I hope I don’t sound like an idiot”.
- “I hope I don’t feel nervous”.
- “I hope I don’t upset my boss”.
You start to focus on things going wrong and where focus goes, energy flows.
Now, when someone thinks like this, they also create an image or a movie in their head of all the things happening, which they don’t want to happen.
It’s important to know this because the nervous system doesn’t know the difference between what is real and what isn’t. That is why your dreams can be so vivid and it can feel as though you are actually in them.
As a presenter, it’s crucial you say how you want things to go, which will then lead to the creation of positive imagery to go with it.
When I am working with people who have a fear of public speaking, the first question I always ask them is: “How would you like your presentation to go?” Usually, the first thing they give me is a passionate list of how they don’t want their presentation to go.
A simple question I ask them, to turn the negative into a positive is: “If you don’t want that to happen, what do you want to have happen instead?” If you apply this question to the list of statements above, this is the transformation you will get:
- “I want to remember everything I have to say”.
- “I want to stand still and look solid in my body language”.
- “I want the audience to be interested in what I am saying”.
- “I want to sound knowledgeable and say it with certainty”.
- “I want to feel confident”.
- “I want my boss to be proud of me”.
You see, everything in life is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think everything will go wrong in a presentation, then you strengthen the chances of it going wrong. If you think your performance will be excellent, then you strengthen your chances of an excellent performance.
In my early days of presenting, I used to get very nervous before speaking in public and a friend of mine gave me a very useful tip to help control my nerves. He told me to replace the word ‘nervous’ with either the word ‘excited’ or ‘relaxed’. It’s amazing how just changing one word can make all the difference!
Change your words/statements to create a positive image/movie in your head and you’ll be well on your way to a truly powerful presentation.
Until next time.