“What’s the worst that could happen?”
…Common advice you receive when you’re worrying about something.
The helpful soul dispensing the advice wants you to quit stressing out. They don’t think there’s going to be a problem, so why should you?
Trouble is, there often is a “worst” that could happen. There are often things the advice-giver hasn’t considered… Especially when it comes to public speaking. There’s judgment, embarrassment, not getting the promotion, missing out on cool projects, many issues that can come from a poor presentation.
Thing is, worry isn’t going to help you improve your presentation skills. Worry is more likely to be detrimental to your delivery. Worrying causes you to focus on the bad things that could happen, like making a fool of yourself, saying the wrong words… When you focus on these things they are more likely to occur. A self-fulfilling prophecy.
So, how can you relax and stop worrying about that upcoming speech or presentation?
The key to what works to cure your worry lies in what doesn’t work…
Let’s look at what is unlikely to cure your speech anxiety:
People often advise to deal with worry by distracting yourself.
“Think about something else…”
“Every time it comes to mind, breathe deeply and think about something that makes you happy.”
“Whenever you start to worry about it, just tell yourself to STOP!”
These approaches sound nice, but when you’re faced with having to stand in front of a group of people and talk, they are unlikely to work. You worry more about public speaking than dying, so yelling “STOP!” to yourself and going to your happy place is not going to be much help.
Write it down
“When you start to worry about something just write it down and you’ll get it off your mind.”
This might work for an administrative task you need to complete at the office, but not likely to work when you’re worrying about remembering all the words you have to say in tomorrow’s speech.
Here’s what to do to stop the worry:
Can you identify the item that’s missing from the two strategies above? That’s right…
The only way to cure your worry about your speech is to take action.
Work on it, plan it, and practice it.
If you’ve got your speech prepared, work on your slides.
If you get everything ready, but you’re still worried, it’s time to practice.
Take action! Prepare, design, practice, re-work.
Once you have practiced enough the worry will soon subside.
…And remember, if you’re worried about making mistakes, remember the golden rule: Everyone makes mistakes. The audience don’t notice though, unless you tell them.