Con­quer your nerves be­fore your pre­sen­ta­tion

Finweek English Edition - - LIFE - BY NANCY DUARTE

You know the feel­ing: you’re about to give a big pr e s e nt a t i on a nd y ou r ner ves s et i n. You f e el pres­sure in your chest. Your breath­ing gets shal­low. Your blood pres­sure i ncreases. And sud­denly it seems in­evitable that you’re go­ing to mess this up − and ev­ery­one will see.

Evo­lu­tion ex­plains why you feel this way. It used to be that the in­creased adren­a­line and cor­ti­sol pump­ing through your sys­tem in times of stress helped us f lee or fight in the face of preda­tors. In busi­ness, the threats to our well-be­ing are largely psy­cho­log­i­cal in­stead of phys­i­cal − yet our bod­ies fail to dif­fer­en­ti­ate sig­nif­i­cantly be­tween the two.

While there is some dif­fer­ence in how the brain pro­cesses phys­i­cal and so­cial pain, our neu­ro­log­i­cal re­sponse to get­ting pinched, for ex­am­ple, is strik­ingly sim­i­lar to our re­sponse to re­jec­tion. And since public speak­ing of­fers us the op­por­tu­nity to face re­jec­tion on a grand scale, it’s no won­der that some peo­ple fear it worse than death.

Though th­ese are pow­er­ful and nat­u­ral re­ac­tions, it ’s pos­si­ble to over­come them.

The first (and most ob­vi­ous) way to quell your fears is to do ev­ery­thing you can to en­sure that things go smoothly, and that means you have to pre­pare. One of the most nerve-wrack­ing talks I ever pre­pared for was my pre­sen­ta­tion at TEDxEast. I knew that this per­for­mance in par­tic­u­lar could have a huge im­pact on the way the world viewed pre­sen­ta­tions − and my busi­ness. So, I re­hearsed for 35 hours.

It’s not ex­actly news that prepa­ra­tion helps you con­vince your au­di­ence that you know your ma­te­rial. But you’ll also ben­e­fit by mak­ing your talk a more Once you’ve pre­pared to the hilt, start get­ting com­fort­able with un­cer­tainty. One of the big­gest lies we tell our­selves is that we can have to­tal con­trol over a sit­u­a­tion. You can’t. At a cer­tain point you have to trust that you’ve done all that you can to pre­pare, and leave it at that.

Nerves of­ten start to build when we think peo­ple can tell we’re ner­vous. In most cases, they can’t. If you stum­ble, act as though it didn’t hap­pen. You can’t con­trol the au­di­ence’s re­ac­tion, but you can lead peo­ple in the di­rec­tion you want by re­main­ing calm and loose.

Speak­ing of au­di­ences, get used to look­ing at blank faces − or faces that are dis­tracted al­to­gether. When you’re talk­ing to some­body one-on-one, you get the phys­i­cal and ver­bal cues that some­one is lis­ten­ing. Groups of peo­ple don’t al­ways do that. They’re not judg­ing you. They’re prob­a­bly try­ing to be po­lite and lis­ten. The key is not to let any­one’s body lan­guage faze you. Chances are, your au­di­ence wants you to suc­ceed.

YOU CAN’T CON­TROL THE AU­DI­ENCE’S RE­AC­TION, BUT YOU CAN LEAD PEO­PLE IN THE DI­REC­TION YOU WANT BY RE­MAIN­ING CALM AND LOOSE.

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