How do you feel when you are to present information, even to people you are familiar with? If you’re like most people, you will suffer from nervous anxiety or, at best, have ‘butterflies’ in the stomach.
Why do we suffer from ‘nerves’ and how can we calm them in a situation where we feel fearful of the actual act or the consequences of it?
Firstly, realise that being nervous is normal, so don’t think that there’s something wrong with you or that you shouldn’t be feeling this way. Some degree of nervous tension is actually a good thing. It gets the adrenalin flowing and prepares your body and mind for action. You can manage an over-nervous reaction by practicing deep breathing. It may not get rid of the nerves but it will help you to manage them, as you introduce more oxygen into the body.
Why do we get nervous? Well, your body cannot distinguish very well between different types of danger. Your mind prompts the body to interpret the presentation as a dangerous situation, which builds anxiety and, possibly, fear.
Why would it do this? It’s because you are preparing for either fight or flight, which is our reptillian brain’s normal reaction to danger. If you get wounded in a fight, for example, it’s probably better not to have food in the stomach. So the natural reaction is to get rid of it. That’s why you naturally feel sick when you perceive dangerous situatioins.
You can see that your perception of a situation plays a big part in keeping these physical reactions under control. So the most important step is to manage your perception of the occasion, making sure you see the audience as being people who need your information, guidance, knowledge, expertise, experience and leadership.
How can you build confidence when you are feeling nervous? Here are some tips:
1) Take long, deep breaths. This allows your diaphragm to let out air as you are saying each word and stops your vocal chords from tightening up, causing your voice to sound squeaky and taught.
2) Control your hands. Try to relax them and let them act naturally for you. If in doubt, let them hang loosely in front of you.
3) Give good eye contact. People will recognise how you feel from your body language. Good eye-contact makes you look confident and in control. If you find this difficult, look at people’s foreheads…from a distance it will look as if you are looking them straight in the eye.
4) Talk normally and don’t rush it. People will not be able to take in the meaning if you rush, and will cease to listen actively to you. They will switch off, because it will take too much effort to understand you.
5) Remember the fear is only there because you want to impress. If you put the emphasis on what your audience needs to know, you take the emphasis off yourself. Keep them in mind and you will gradually forget your own nerves.
Nerves are a natural reminder that we can always improve in our presentation of information. Learn to control them and you should see improvements quickly in the way your presentations are perceived.
Mark Williams is a learning and development professional, using business psychology and multiple intelligences to create fascinating and quickly-identifiable learning initiatives in the real-world business setting. Mark’s role at MTD is to ensure that our training is leading edge, and works closely with our trainers to develop the best learning experiences for all people on learning programmes. Mark designs and delivers training programmes for businesses both small and large and strives to ensure that MTD’s clients are receiving the very best training, support and services that will really make a difference to their business.