You have been asked to deliver a presentation to about fifty people, including all of your bosses and colleagues. Even if the presentation subject is one you know well and are therefore very qualified to cover, do you experience public speaking anxiety?
I used to feel scared witless.
Even the thought of delivering a presentation that is weeks away would set off feelings of sheer panic.
The physical sense of stress and anxiety would only increase as the day for my presentation drew even closer.
Why is it we can sometimes have symptoms way before our speaking event?
An event that may still be weeks away.
Let’s take a step back and look at the thought process that I went through as soon as I had agreed to deliver any presentation in public.
If you are like me, you will ask yourself a series of ‘what if’ questions before a presentation.
Questions like -
What if I forget my words?
What if they know more than me?
What if they ask awkward questions?
What if I trip up to my words?
What if I don’t know the answer to a question?
What if they don’t like me?
What if I look silly?
Maybe you’re asking questions like these?
These questions would continually spin round and round in my head, even in my dreams.
All these questions caused stress and tension and were not serving or helping me in any way.
As you now look at the list of questions above, do you see what they all have in common?
There is one clear theme to all the questions.
Every single one of them was about me.
The entire focus of every question on the meeting is what will happen to me and how everyone will perceive me.
While having a continual cycle of what-if questions through your mind is natural, it is entirely the wrong strategy.
It is creating and building up all the public speaking anxieties, fears and worries we are experiencing before the meeting.
So how do we stop running this cycle before our presentation?
The answer is simple.
Stop being so selfish.
There I said it….
Stop being so selfish!
I don’t mean to be harsh, but it’s so important to get this point.
A critical first step in reducing our public speaking anxieties before or during a presentation is to change where we focus.
Reducing Your Public Speaking Anxiety
Let us look at it this way.
You’ve invited some friends over to your home for a small party next week.
What would be your thought process?
Stop and take a moment to think about it.
What are the things that immediately come to mind?
I am sure you would start by thinking about what food and drinks you should buy to cater to their individual tastes.
Maybe to ensure all of your friends have a wonderful time you may need to have prepared a mix of meat, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc.
Perhaps you will prepare a playlist for the party?
Were all your thoughts all about how you can ensure that you’re going to have an awesome time and what the guests can do to ensure you enjoy the evening?
Do you ask questions such as:
What if I get bored?
What if I don’t like the food?
What if I don’t enjoy the party?
What if I don’t enjoy the conversation?
I am sure these aren’t the very first questions that spring to mind or ones that you keep worrying about before the party.
Altering Our Focus to Eliminate Public Speaking Anxiety
Just as an excellent host takes the time to ensure all of their guests will have a good time, you should focus on those who will be listening to your presentation.
Instead of having the mental focus 100% internally on us, building up our public speaking anxiety as we worry about how people will perceive us, start to think about how you can best serve all those attending the meeting.
What can you do to ensure they all enjoy listening to you?
What is it that you would like them to take away from your presentation?
When you shift your focus away from yourself to your audience, the symptoms of stress and panic associated with public speaking anxiety will soon begin diminishing.
Following this single strategy will make you feel more confident and less stressed when presenting or speaking in public.