Image from NASA – The old countdown clock at the Kennedy Space Center press site is seen ticking down to a space shuttle launch in 2011.
It’s like a countdown to blast off for me. Five minutes before the presentation my heart beats faster. Sometimes I’m excited and keen to get going, sometimes I feel quite sick. Occasionally my mind goes blank. Personally, I find small sit down meeting presentations harder than the big stage set.
The only thing that reassures me is that the business CEOs we coach, top actors and top scientists often feel the same. This is normal for many of us.
Over the years, I’ve built 7 coping strategies for the initial ‘walk on’ which I’m happy to share. It’s a smorgasbord of ideas from our coaches, neuroscience and positive psychology. I’d love to learn from what works for you too. It’s a very individual thing.
Tuning in – I need to spend significant time finding out what will be useful to and land with the audience in advance. Without this, I feel very naked. I want to have a conversation with the audience and join their ‘in group’.
Water & rest – My throat used to go hoarse before presentations. Drinking more water over the week ahead and getting more hours of sleep has solved the problem.
A strong point of view – I have to really believe in what I’m presenting, even for that half an hour, to do a good job. I know I have something valuable to say, a very clear point of view and a good way of building an emotional connection with the audience when I’m really looking forward to ‘getting out there’. So I talk out loud while walking my dog to make sure it feels strong enough and flows right. And I visualise what it will be like to present well to the group.
My territory – getting into the room early or prowling around the stage before people arrive helps me relax. I want to welcome the audience into my domain and I don’t want practical hiccups.
Power posing – I will disappear to stand and open my arms wide for two minutes in private to get my cortisol levels down. Amy Cuddy’s research does work in practice. It also makes me laugh. (Watch Amy’s Ted talk ‘Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are’ here).
Breathing – Just off stage or sitting in my seat I will take 5 slow breaths right into the pit of my stomach, breathe out completely, wait a second and repeat. Then I’ll walk on with purpose. I’ll take two more of these breaths looking at the audience before I start to speak on stage.
Cheating – I deliberately structure the presentation with a video, music or audience interaction early so that I can make a connection and relax myself. In meetings, I’ll make sure I’ve asked a question or contributed during a previous discussion.
If you or your leadership team would like to become really good presenters who can engage and energise others, please do enquire about our courses. We work one to one and in groups. Contact us to find out more.