Partners in Performance Blog

Presentation Nerves? Whisper Sweet Nothings To Yourself

If you’re not mentally or emotionally ready to present, it’s impossible to show up with confidence and be persuasive.  That can result in many undesired consequences.

Presentation nerves show up in different ways. Some are obvious. A shaky voice and trembling hands are clear indicators that the presenter is nervous. Nerves also show up in more subtle ways with distracting behaviours such as:

  • Racing through your content
  • Using filler words like ‘ums’
  • Skittish eye contact
  • Swaying hips
  • Dancing feet
  • Playing with a marker or pen

The good news is that we don’t necessarily look as nervous as we feel.    In our UPFRONT Persuasion presentation skills workshops, we often hear people say during video tape practice, “I was so nervous.”  We ask participants, “Did the person look nervous?” Most of the time the answer is “no.”  That’s a good thought so hang on to it.

Instead of saying to yourself “I feel so nervous,” replace your negative self talk with “I don’t look as nervous as I feel.” It will help you feel more confident. One of the best ways to manage your nerves is to become aware of what you are saying to yourself.

Do you say some of these familiar phrases to yourself?

  • “I hate being in front of groups.”
  • “I never have enough time to prepare.”
  • “What if they ask me a question I can’t answer?”

If this is the conversation you’re having in your head before you present, you will look nervous.  You won’t be comfortable.

So what should you do to counteract this?

Prepare a “mantra”, a phrase that you say to yourself that will help you feel the way you want to feel. 

  • My preparation has been thorough.
  • I have practiced my delivery.
  • The audience does not expect me to be perfect.
  • I can’t possibly make everyone happy.
  • The audience is interested in the information, rather than examining my every move.

The power of replacing negative self talk with positive sweet nothings is supported by new research presented by Wary Hebert at Psychological Science.  The researchers demonstrate how to transform bad stress and nerves into a positive with a simple mind trick. Tell yourself that your heart pounding and gut pinches are good for you. They act as a useful reminder to change the conversation in your head.

When do you use your mantra or positive self talk?

Whisper sweet nothings to yourself on the days leading up to the presentation, on the day of, and as you stand in front of your audience and say “Good Morning.”

When you are calm, it frees you up to focus your attention where it needs to be – on your audience.

This post was adapted from the webinar 13 Expert Tips to Create Truly Persuasive Presentations.  It is tip #6 of System 13.

Click here to buy the webinar replay and learn what it takes to be a truly persuasive presenter.

This entry was posted by TanjaParsley on October 12, 2012 in Handling Presentation Nerves, Presentation Skills, Success Mindset, UPFRONT Persuasion™. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments with the RSS feed for this post. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.

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