A really common concern for lots of us is doing a big, important presentation and the fear that it’ll all go wrong. A common, but rather strange, combat technique is to imagine the audience naked in the hope that their imagined power over you is diminished. While that’s an interesting route to go down, the validity and usefulness of it is probably minimal, but luckily there are some things that can really make a quick, and lasting, impact on your confidence in presenting.
A process that can really help is defining exactly what your fears are that could go wrong, and examining each aspect and understanding the likelihood of it actually happening. Do you worry you’re going to be sweating through your shirt? Ok, so what’s that based on, and how likely is it to happen? If it is likely, and I speak from personal experience as somebody who can sweat in the Arctic, then maybe it’s time to invest in a good antiperspirant and make sure you can wear a jacket or a jumper. If you go for the latter is that a new thing, so do you need to practice? Ultimately, even if you do sweat through your shirt, what will happen? Will you get fired, or not win the deal? Will people lose respect for you? If you’re answering yes to these, then on what evidence are you basing it?
To offset the examination of your fears, I’ve found visualising and talking explicitly about that vision, can be a powerful tool to grow in confidence. Working with your coach, talking through how you want to be feeling, what you’re doing and the way you feel when you’re delivering a great presentation helps you aim for something and changes the narrative from negative to positive. When I say talking through how you’re feeling, I mean really going into detail: “I’m sat waiting for my boss to finish his introduction to me. I can feel the chair I’m sat on, and my stomach is a little fluttery as I’m feeling nervous. I’m smiling as I’m happy at what he’s saying…..
Probably the biggest tip, maybe two tips, is to stop using the term “erm” and replace it with a silent pause. Ultimately an “erm” is just a loud, annoying pause, and it can really detract from your content, or how serious you want to be taken. There’s a huge amount of fear around leaving a silence for the audience, but actually, their tolerance towards silence won’t be tested until maybe five or six seconds. People like silence when they’re listening, it gives them a chance to catch up, to breathe and to think which just isn’t there if you try and rattle through your content. Importantly, really importantly, it gives you a chance to check your crib notes, or think about what you’re going to say next.
Practice is the key to the pause and to stop using “erm”. This is where working with a coach can be really handy to explore your progress and to understand the feelings that come up when you’re trying to be more aware of what you’re doing and change. Remember, the chances are you communicate wonderfully in your natural habitat and it’s just a case of moving that slightly and increasing your comfort zone. This takes practice, patience and determination!
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About Ben Scanlan
Ben is an existential coach and psychotherapist based in London. He is an experienced rugby coach, project manager and change expert, as well as being a member of the AoC and the BACP. He has a wealth of experience helping people, especially men, with their way of being in the world and navigating the challenges life gives us.