Sleep was impossible.
There were no more sheep left to count.
John Fisher stared up at the dark ceiling and tried to calm down. He could feel his blood pumping. He could hear it.
Relax, he told himself.
It was no good. The fear, the anxiety just wouldn’t go away.
He had moments where he pictured himself doing a great presentation. Delivering a stellar performance, the audience clapping wildly, smiling from ear to ear. Those moments were fleeting. Soon devoured by panic. Moments disappearing into a blackhole of impending doom.
Impending doom. That was the best way to describe how John felt.
In a few short hours he would do his presentation. An audience of 10 executives would listen to John propose a new, more efficient way of attracting and retaining new customers.
John was a pro. He knew his stuff. But none of that mattered once he was standing in front of a group of people.
I’m going to fail. I’m going to forget what to say. I’m going to be tongue-tied. I won’t be able to answer their questions. My message won’t be clear. I’m going to be red-faced.
John considered calling in sick. Pointless… He’d just have to do his presentation the following day.
He rolled over and looked at the clock. 3AM! He only had a few hours before he had to be up!.. And he hadn’t slept a wink.
Panic! Stress! Nerves! Doom!
If John’s situation sounds even a little bit familiar, it’s understandable. A whopping 75% of people fear public speaking.
So what can you do? You have a presentation coming up soon. You know it’s only 5 or 10 minutes and you can deal with that… But, the lead up to the presentation – the days and nights before – can be anxiety nightmares.
Here are 3 unconventional ways to deal with presentation anxiety:
1. Picture yourself in the audience
Imagine yourself in the audience of a presentation at work.
How do you feel?
Probably like you don’t want to be there, right? True.
But, how do you feel about the presenter?
You want them to succeed. You want them to do a good job. You don’t want them to fail, do you?
Of course not… Because if they fail – if they do something embarrassing – then it’s uncomfortable for you, right?
The long and the short of this is, when you think about the audience you should always remember they are there to support you. Even if the audience is full of your arch enemies, they still want you to succeed because your success makes everyone’s job easier.
Relax, the audience is there to support you.
2. Focus on knowledge instead of memorizing a script
A sure-fire way to forget your lines is to try and memorize them.
A sure-fire way to have anxiety and panic is to forget your lines.
A cure for this forgetfulness, anxiety, and panic is to avoid memorizing a script.
Instead, focus on understanding you subject in detail.
If your topic is something you know well forgetting your lines won’t be an issue… You’ll just be able to talk about your topic.
For example, imagine I’m a project manager and I have to give a status update presentation on the project I’m currently working on. I know this topic really well because I am working with it every day. Writing out and trying to memorize a script for this topic is a waste of time. Trying to memorize a script will only add to my anxiety about presenting.
3. Plan some questions for the audience
When you take the stage do you know when you will be panicking most?
When the focus is just on you.
A great way to deal with your presentation anxiety is to take the focus off yourself by “pushing” to the audience.
You push to the audience by asking them questions and interacting with them.
Plan out questions you can ask them which are related to your presentation.
For example, imagine I’m presenting a status update on my project. One of the questions I could ask the audience is, “Who can tell me something about the XYZ project?”
The added benefit of these questions and interaction is your presentation becomes more engaging.
What do you think? What’s your experience? Let’s chat in the comments section below…