Partners in Performance Blog

Keith Urban’s Coaching Tip on Presentation Nerves

Presentation nervesLast week on American Idol one of the contestants made a funny grimace each time she thought she messed up. Afterwards during the critique, judge Keith Urban told her “there are no wrong notes…just the look on your face.” In other words, if she had carried on no one would have noticed the mistake. Or it would have been so minimal that it wouldn’t register as much as it did when her facial expression revealed what was going on inside her head. It’s exactly the same with presentations.

Presentation nerves are something that most people experience to one degree or another. Even professional speakers can experience the jitters from time to time but they have learned how to manage and transform their butterflies into dynamic energy.

Some people get nervous for any presentation. They simply hate being in the spot light and sadly they stay away from it all costs. I know more than a few people who lost significant career opportunities to advance their careers because they weren’t comfortable with public speaking. Others couldn’t bring themselves to speak at weddings to express their love and gratitude for the important people in their lives. What a shame. 

Others are comfortable in smaller groups but get them in front of large audiences or when the stakes are high and the anxiety goes up significantly. What’s the worst case scenario? Stage fright. This is what happened to poor Michael Bay at Samsung’s Press Conference at The Consumer Electronics show in early January. You can see the brief clip here and you will instantly feel Michael’s pain. It would be nice to think some good can come of his painful experience by sharing some best practices. I don’t know what Michael did before going on stage but I wonder… what was missing from his preparation? Was he relying entirely on the teleprompter? Did he have a contingency plan when it broke down? What I do know is a pound of prevention is worth an ounce of cure.

Prevention Strategies for Presentation Nerves

There are many preparation tactics that can help you get more comfortable and confident before your big speaking engagement and a few of my favourites are described here in my blog post. With proper preparation, presentation nerves can be avoided altogether or at least minimized to the point where they aren’t a distraction to your audience.  But sometimes even when well prepared, the ‘beast’ can raise its ugly head and catch us off guard. Then what? What are some things we can do to overcome and move through our nerves?

Overcoming Presentation Anxiety DURING Your Presentation

 Stop the leaky language. Your verbal and non-verbal communication will give you away.

  1. Stop the apologies and stop the give-away facial expressions. Remember Keith’s tip “there are no wrong notes…just the look on your face.
  2. Lighten up. It’s not the mistake you make or the going blank that’s the problem, it’s the decision you make you about it. If you think it’s a disaster it will be. If you think it’s simply a momentary lapse and no big deal, it will be that too. How you think and how you manage your self-talk in the moment will determine the outcome. This is a learned skill which can be mastered.
  3. Pause Pause Pause (and breathe deeply):  Take all the time you need to collect yourself and then carry on. People will hardly remember your mistake but  they will remember your recovery.
  4.  Use humour. One of the things I do if the situation is appropriate (and many of them are), is poke fun at myself. I might say something like “where was I?” with a smile on my face. The audience never lets me down.

What about you? What strategies do you have up your sleeve that you can share with us? I would love to hear from you.

If you want to take your presentation effectiveness to the next level, call or email  me for presentation skills training or rehearsal coaching. 

This entry was posted by TanjaParsley on January 21, 2014 in Handling Presentation Nerves. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback.

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