CONQUER PRESENTATION ANXIETY: OLYMPIC ATHLETES SHOW US HOW
By Roberta Prescott, President, Prescott Group
BLOOMFIELD, CT, Aug. 1, 2012 -- Whether going for the gold or giving a presentation, the beast visit us performance anxiety rears its ugly head. Your hands are clammy, your knees wobbly and your heart is pounding. You’ve developed a shortness of breath and your breakfast is staging an uprising. The pressure is on, and you want to succeed and perform at the top of your game.
Olympic Athletes do three things to build their confidence and tame the beast. They are mentally tough; they concentrate so deeply that they go “into the zone”; and they visualize success.
BE MENTALLY TOUGH
It’s all in your attitude. Olympic Athletes don’t feel helpless. They are proactive and are determined to succeed. Your drive to be mentally tough should include the following:
- Accept the tension. It happens to everyone, and you need it so that you can be “up” for your presentation.
- Cultivate courage. Courage doesn’t mean the absence of fear. It means fighting past it and taking action. Trust yourself – you know more than you think.
- Prepare a good game plan.
- What’s your goal? What do you want from this presentation?
- Do your homework. What’s expected of you?
- Anticipate the moves of the “competition”. What “sweat questions” might you have to answer? Practice your answers.
Rehearse so that you are performance ready. When you are well rehearsed your mind will be in complete control, you will effortlessly know what you will say next and your movements will be relaxed and flowing.
Olympic Athletes are inundated with external distractions -- from the roar of the crowd and performances in other parts of the gym, to the pounding of feet and other runners breathing down their neck.
You also need to tune out distractions – from servers clearing dishes during an after dinner speech or a too loud presentation in the room next door, to your audience answering e-mails or talking to each other during a small group briefing.
How do you get into the “zone” where you are focused so deeply that distractions can’t disturb you?
- By controlled breathing. Oxygen provides the fuel for your voice, and is the source of your energy. At the same time it calms you down and helps you to concentrate. While waiting your turn to speak take several calming deep slow breaths.
- By memorizing the first minute of your presentation so that you are on automatic pilot during the most dangerous time of your presentation.
Just before you begin, take a deep breath the way Olympic Athletes do before the gun goes off.
Don’t set yourself up for failure by falling prey to negative “what if?” self-talk.
- “What if I forget what I want to say?”
- “What if I can’t answer all the questions?”
- “What if I let (myself / my boss / my department) down?”
- “What if I make a mistake?”
- “What if I don’t meet expectations?”
Instead visualize your success. Just as a diver can visualize climbing up the ladder, stepping to the edge of the platform, launching into the air, twisting perfectly and entering the water without a splash, you can visualize yourself doing well.
- Picture yourself presenting with a clear voice, appropriate gestures and pauses and great eye contact.
- Picture yourself speaking fluently and without hesitation, and answering questions precisely.
- Picture yourself changing your visuals without looking back at the screen.
- Picture yourself using smooth transitions from one page of your handout to the next.
- Picture the smiles in your audience after you complete a smooth ending.
Develop an “I’ll do well” mantra. e.g., “My breathing is steady and deep. I am confident. I am successful.”
You have the knowledge and physical skills to give an excellent performance. Use these three points from those who have spent years working toward the gold.
About the Prescott Group:
Roberta Prescott is the President of The Prescott Group, a Bloomfield, CT, based Communication Coaching and Training firm specializing in Executive Development. For more information, see www.prescottgorup.com.
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