No matter how many presentations I do, I still suffer from presentation anxiety. You know the kind. Entire kaleidoscopes of butterflies threatening my insides. Heart solidly pounding. Dry mouth marking every syllable. Me painfully searching for that glass of water.
Practicing ahead of time, being prepared, and meditation are wonderful methods. And yet, there I am. I’ve been introduced. The microphone is waiting. My palms are sweating. My zen has left the building. I’ve totally forgotten what I wanted to say.
I’m in my head. Not in my heart. Although it is doing its best to demand my attention.
When I came across an article by A.W. Brooks entitled “Get Excited: Reappraising Pre-performance Anxiety as Excitement” in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, I was overjoyed. How might we use this nervous energy productively?
Years of being an athlete on my high school teams, taught me that nervous energy could be channeled to help me. For example, at the beginning of a softball game, fighting off similar nerves, as soon as I could chase a fly ball or run to first base, I was fine. In fact, I seemed to reach the base or the ball much faster. The anxiety literally became my turbo fuel. Now, it was no longer about me. It was all about the game at hand.
Obviously, in a corporate presentation situation, we can’t be doing speed laps around the conference table or dives into the center of the room. But what we can do is channel our anxiety into excitement about the purpose of the presentation. In other words, channel it into our excitement about our organization, the material, or the people we serve. It’s really not about us anyway.
Here’s how you might redirect those nerves:
1. Notice your nervousness. “Wow, I’m nervous (Darn!)” 2. Reframe it. “I’ve got a ton of nervous energy. (Awesome!)” 3. Give it a place to go. “Awesome because I have so much to say. I love this work. I can’t wait to get started.”
4. Walk around. Use your energy around the room. (No laps though.)
5. Connect your energy to your heart and passion. Your excitement. Place your hand over your heart and speak from this place.
So if you find yourself still jittery before speaking, don’t bury it. Don’t block it. Don’t try to calm it down. Just flip on the turbo. And use it.`