What causes people to be SO nervous when making presentations, and what can they do to overcome the nervousness? There are two main reasons the nerves make an appearance and two big changes you can make that will change all of that.
The first reason nerves show up is because ...
... we hope everyone will like what we say and we start second-guessing ourselves. Should I say this? Should I say that. Should I start with a joke? Should I not? What if they don't like me? We are social beings, and we want to be liked, even loved or revered on some levels and in some instances. When we are put in a situation where that can be challenged or where challenging questions may be posed, where we may not be liked or our ideas, research, or beliefs may be called in to question or if there is the possibility the audience is not as passionate about our content as are we, then there's nervousness. And the nervousness is heightened if we have anxiety to go along with it, which is the physical response to the nerves or the stress: the sweaty palms, the racing heart, the butterflies in the stomach.
A second reason nerves show up is because you have not spoken the words before. If you have not heard the words before that you plan to speak, then you are going into that presentation blind. I liken this to going into the kitchen blindfolded and putting a dash of this in a bowl, a smidge of that, a hunk of this, and a cup of that, some penne pasta, maybe some cauliflower and carrots, a couple of black olives and a few kernels of corn, popping it in the oven, taking it out, and digging in. Yikes! You have no idea how those words will sound, what gestures you're going to make, or what facial expressions will accompany each sentence.
And that practicing in the mirror jazz … nope. That doesn't work. That does not help you get rid of the jitters, and here's why. When you practice in front of the mirror, you are practice so you can see your movements, supposedly so you can see what you think the audience will see. You are not practicing to ensure you HEAR what the audience hears. I'll digress for a second, though, and assert practice in a mirror doesn't fully help with choreographing your movement either. Let's be honest. When in front of a mirror, you are not your natural self. You suck in the gut, turn just so, trying to get the right pose. You need to be more natural, more yourself, gesturing as you do when you're not in front of a mirror but when you're simply being yourself and speaking as you ordinarily do.
So to get over the nerves, to not worry about whether the audience will love what you say, to feel confident in your message, here are the two big changes you can make that will change all of that: Immediately give your audience a reason to lean in and listen. Immediately give them a reason to what to hear you. Give them what they came to get; your talk was publicized before your arrival. Give them what was promised in that publicization. Second, practice your presentation in a way that ensures you HEAR what your audience will hear and feel what it will feel.
You’ve got this!
Photograph credit: kai kalh
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