Many of us tend to stay in our comfort zones. When we wander out of these comfort zones, we start to feel anxious. New situations always increase the stress meter. As previously noted, driving in an unfamiliar place without a map or GPS creates that same feeling that washes over us when we step up to a podium or have that big meeting with the boss. The feeling is natural. There are plenty of actors and athletes who get this same feeling before a big event. It is natural. Given an opportunity to present to senior executives at my company, I instantly fear failing in front of them. They trust and have faith that this presentation will be successful, and I never want to let them down. The mental head games we play with ourselves tell us that the risk of failure is there. However, we need to override this feeling by looking at the other side of the coin: that success is likely if we have controlled everything we could and have come prepared. The presentation won’t be perfect, so get over it—you can still make it a great performance if you invest the time and effort.
The punishing effects of the mental game can overtake you. What if I embarrass myself? What if the red blotches creep up my neck to my face and I am burning with heat? What if the fear of the fear is overtaking me? What if…what if…what if? A funny thing happened as I learned how to practice and prepare. The more stage time I got, the more confident I became. I had worried about the “blush” factor for too many years to remember, and now the only time I ever think about it is when I am teaching people about how I forgot about it. It truly is no longer a distracting “what if” thought. You too can control the mental game by increasing your time on stage.
You also don’t want to bore the audience. You won’t, as long as you put the necessary time and effort into the material, message, and delivery to ensure you keep the audience interested. Don’t just throw the presentation together and hope it works. You have to remember that most people in an audience want you to succeed, and when you succeed, they walk away thinking about you and your message. If your goal is to entertain, inspire, motivate, or persuade, and they are entertained, inspired, motivated, or persuaded, you have both won. Audiences want to think and be transformed into your world. Take the bold and confident approach. When you believe that you have the message to make a difference in someone’s life, that belief should turn into confidence that will resonate with any audience. Turn your words to action, and your action into positive energy. If you say, “I’m really glad to be here,” you should mean it. You set the tone.
Finally, a lack of public-speaking experience often drives anxiety. Nothing increases experience more than just doing more of it. So it’s time to set up a plan to increase your face time, presentation time, and public time to gain this experience. As you will learn later in the book, when you start to write and prepare for the audience and stop worrying about yourself, many of these anxious feelings will dissipate.
Thomas B. Dowd III’s books available in softcover, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only):
- Down the Chute: A Toboggan Tale (children’s book)
- Now What? The Ultimate Graduation Gift for Professional Success
- Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance
- Displacement Day: When My Job was Looking for a Job…A Reference Guide to Finding Work
- The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World
- From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide received the Gold Medal at the 2013 Axiom Business Book Awards in Business Reference
- The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood