Presentations: What Will People Think of Me?

I used to get nervous before a presentation. I know the symptoms all too well – the choking feeling in my throat, the trembling in my hands and voice and feeling nauseous before stepping up onto the podium! WHY do we become afraid, jittery and nervous?

It is simply this: We are all concerned to a greater or lesser degree, about what people will think of us.

From prehistoric days, cavemen and women have sat around a fire or rock, chatting and socializing, much as we do today around a table. But it becomes a whole new ball game when we have to stand up and talk to others formally. That’s historically reserved for the tribe leader (who only found it easy to do through experience among other things). The risk of messing up” and “losing face” has always loomed large.

If its any comfort, the reality is that nearly 100% of presenters experience anxiety before going live. Another reality check is that when you attend a presentation, either by choice or requirement, few if any people want you to make a total idiot of yourself so that they can sit back and snigger! Most people are like you and me – we want the best for one another.

So how can this fear be overcome?

Well firstly, remember this: People in your audience would rather give positive feedback rather than negative. They’re on your side.

Secondly, you must accept that not everyone will like everything you say or do, and that’s okay. Extensive research of speakers, trainers and presenters indicates that consistent ratings of over 96 percent are rare and 97 percent unheard of. You are thereby released from the burden of having to be perfect.

And finally, if a presentation does bomb, and you don’t get the business approval you want, remember that there’ll be another day, another audience, and another presentation. People quickly get over you and move on, so do the same – but not without learning from the experience and applying what you’ve learnt to your next presentation.

So next time you find yourself staring at a group of people, with a knot in your stomach, or a gulp in your throat, just remember you’re only human. You’re learning and your fears can be overcome. The people staring back at you are on your side, and want you to succeed as you present to them. Take a deep breath and focus on the audience members. Channel your energy into getting your point across effectively, and give your listeners a powerful experience. You CAN present with confidence!