Do This When You Are Anxious to Give a Talk or Presentation

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It’s that time of year again. You need to get up in front of a group of people and give a presentation to the class, to your boss or to the team. You want to do it right. And you want to do more than just get through it. You want to be confident. So what do you do? How do you improve your chance for success?

One way is to use visualization. Visualization is simply picturing in your mind how you want to do something. In this case, you will visualize  yourself giving a presentation and then sitting down once you have finished. What does that look like? How will you move through it? Your visualizing needs to be specific.

If you are anxious about getting up in front of a group, that is Ok. Acknowledged! But imagine the opposite. You are calm, fluent, relaxed and articulate. When you visualize yourself doing the talk, practice deep breathing and calming your body. See yourself making the presentation while relaxing your physical body. Stay present as you imagine the scene. Don’t allow nerves to get the best of you. Focus on the moment.

Now, picture yourself moving to the podium or in front of the group/class. See yourself walking with confidence, smiling, and greeting the group.

Sometimes the introduction is the hardest. So think about it in advance. How will you introduce yourself and what will you say? Rehearse it.

Next, see yourself begin your talk. Rehearse how you will say it. Slow down, be relaxed and be in the moment. Practice it out loud, maybe in front of a mirror. Do it until you feel fluid and familiar with the material you want to present.

While you are practicing, what does your body language look like? Are you smiling? Making eye contact? Look engaged? Do you pause? Say, ummm a lot?

Now, imagine the type of questions or comments that could arise. Think about how you would answer each one. Rehearse your answers ahead of time. Answer all the questions and bring the meeting or talk to a close.

What if you mind goes blank? What would you do? How will you recover because you can recover. If you have ever had to speak in the past, you can think of all the things that did and could trip you up. The more you prepare for those, the less anxious you feel if they happen because you have a plan.

Once you visualize yourself completing the task, think about expectations. What is realistic? Will you give a perfect presentation? Probably not. But if you can get through it sounding coherent, that is a win. If you struggle, it simply means you need more practice. For example, rehearse your speech, calm down your physical body, or anticipate questions better.

Remember, your self-esteem is not tied to a single performance. The mindset you want to develop is one in which you stay positive and work to improve. Focus on how to improve the process, not the outcome. What specific thing can you practice over and over to bring more confidence?

The truth is public speaking is not a God-given talent. People practice this skill and do it over and over. With practice, you get better. This is why practice is key. Then, anticipate the reactions you get and how you will be received. Over time, you learn the questions most likely to be asked, become more relaxed and get better at doing it. Public speaking is like learning to drive a car, the more you do it, the smoother you get.

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