Monday, November 17, 2014

15 minutes to less stress - suggested yoga video

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Ogilvy CEO's perspective helpful for nervous presenters

This article by Shelly Lazarus Ogilvy CEO offers a perspective that rings true for anyone delivering a presentation. Our motto is always work within your personal style and be genuine. Then you have an opportunity to be great.  Most nervous presenters find this a better route than trying to mimic someone else's style. Take a few minutes to read her article.

Friday, March 28, 2014

You are not alone in your fear of public speaking

While everyone knows that fear of public speaking is common, you may think that your nervousness is much worse because you get nervous just presenting to a few people.  When you are speaking to a small group, it is hard to call it “public” speaking.  It is just a meeting!  You may think you are the only one suffering, since your coworkers don’t seem to be having the same problem.

The fact is that most people get nervous presenting at some point in their career.  For the past 15 years we have been asking workshop attendees if they ever feel nervous.  More often than not, the majority of hands are raised.  One day I was coaching at an advertising agency where people are required to present frequently.  When the HR person discovered that I had a spare hour to run a discussion, they put out an online request for who would like to attend a discussion on handling nerves?  Two hours later, there were 50 people in the room.  

 How can this be when it seems most people around you don’t look nervous?  The reason is some people don’t show outward signs of nervousness.  Some people just get a little formal or soft spoken, or they speak too quickly.  Some lose their personality and warmth.  If you had the opportunity to ask them, they might tell you they thought they did a horrible job and they were trembling inside.

So the first step in addressing nerves is focusing on the physical signs of nerves: Do you speak too fast, too softly, do you scan the room or break eye contact and talk to the screen for too long? Do you use fillers such as um, like, sort of, kind of?  Do your hands shake or do you rock back and forth or flush?

If you are not sure what makes you look nervous, take a video of yourself and take a good look at it.  Pick out one area to address. For example if you fidget, don’t clasp your hands together.  Instead  use a one handed rest position such as putting one hand in your pocket or on a chair so you don’t trigger the fidgeting . You might also be pleasantly surprised that you are not as terrible as you think.  Sometimes we are our own worst critics. 
If you do see some problems, your goal should be to focus on one area at a time so it doesn’t become overwhelming.  Also, don't worry about getting it perfect.  Concentrate on getting it better.  For example, if in your video you notice 32 ums during your five minute presentation, this will create the impression that you are not confident in your material. Work on eliminating those filler words by pausing more often.  Perhaps in the first week you can eliminate 50% of them.  Some people can do it in a day while others may take a month.  Once you cut the fillers in half continue reducing another 50% would bring your total to 8 ums.  At our starting point of 32 ums, it is safe to say that you did not come across as confident or knowledgeable …and you seemed nervous.   At just 8 fillers in your presentation, no one will notice. This is simply a physical speaking habit that is creating a bad impression.  

Remember, it is not about perfection.  It is about improvement. Trying to be perfect might be one of the mental triggers for your stress in the first place.  Striving for perfection can be demoralizing and can get in the way of real progress.  I realize that videoing your presentation is scary but no one is going to watch it but you.  Push through the fear and you will be happy with your progress.

Take a before and after video so you can see your improvement. This alone will start to build your confidence. When you see that you can feel nervous yet project confidence, you will start to FEEL less nervous and more confident.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Perfectionism and Nerves

A lot of nervous presenters I have worked with have a common problem of being perfectionists. Everything must be just so, to the point you might be escalating your nervous reactions.  For example, perhaps you check and change your visuals multiple times, you wordsmith and agonize over minor details. You script and re-script your presentation.   

If you can relate to this, experiment with changing your approach in a low risk meeting.
Below is some advice on trying this:

1.    For a typical business or client meeting, avoid scripting then memorizing your entire presentation. Scripting is ideal for speeches and lectures that do not involve audience interaction.

2.    However, it is critical that you understand the REASON you are presenting the information and why it is important to your audience or clients. This will give you the ability to articulate your ideas better as well as think on your feet.  If you are presenting someone else’s information, and a slide doesn’t make a lot of sense to you, ask them for their thought process.

3.    Do rehearse and memorize key ideas, but try a more “off the cuff” approach for the talking points around the key messages.  Make sure you rehearse this way. Rehearsal will show you what content you need to memorize and what components can be more  extemporaneous.  Do not try this for the first time without rehearsing in front of your clients.

The result in changing your approach this way can help in making the presentation feel more like a conversation to you and your audience.  Most presenters that use this technique become more engaging and genuine in their delivery.  And it can reduce the feelings of nervousness, because it changes the experience from delivering a presentation to having a conversation.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Rehearsal Tips for Nervous Presenters

If you are a nervous presenter, the idea of rehearsal might make you feel even worse.  You might procrastinate when it comes to rehearsing, or avoid it altogether.  

For those who avoid rehearsal:  If you think about why you get nervous, it is often about losing control over something:  your voice waivers, you forget a key point, your hands shake, you turn red in the face, you blank out, etc.  Rehearsal is about practicing ways to gain physical control to improve your delivery.   It is not about saying words repeatedly or memorizing scripts.  For example, if your voice fades after slide 4, it’s good to know this ahead of time. Then you can practice a phrase or do something as a reminder to speak up at that point.   

If you procrastinate, recognize that the longer you put off rehearsal, the more you are feeding a monster that will keep getting bigger until you rehearse, or finish the presentation.  Negative thoughts tend to snowball if left unchecked.  You have to take some sort of action in order to break away from this mental pattern. Otherwise the nervous reaction will just continue to grow.

If you feel like you don’t have time … you can often create time by staying up later or getting up earlier than the rest of the team to rehearse your portion of the presentation.  You do have the benefit of the energy of the nerves so you won’t be too tired during the presentation!   This is one advantage of being a bit nervous – energy! Put that energy to constructive use instead of worrying.

Most people tell me they run out of time because they are still working on the presentation up to the 9th hour.  No one in the audience will ever remember that that one word or graphic you fussed over or the 50th change to the presentation, but they do remember the overall impression.   That’s why in our pitch consulting practice, we always recommend a “pencils down” deadline to create time for rehearsal.

If the team is not ready – you can always rehearse your section alone.  As a nervous presenter you should be rehearsing alone in any case.  It will build your confidence and improve your delivery.  Then when you rehearse with the team, you won’t be the biggest problem in the room.  I am sure the last thing you want is to have an entire team focusing  a lot of attention on your delivery, so prepare well and deliver during team rehearsal as if you in front of your client.  Don’t phone it in.

Finally, you may think that the best presenters simply have a natural talent for speaking.  But most of them got to that point by working at it.  If you ask them, you’ll find most of them will say they still rehearse.      

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Common Misconceptions about Handling Nerves

While well intended, some advice from bosses or your colleagues might have left you feeling frustrated or confused about how to deal with nerves.  As a result, a significant number of people I have coached feel inadequate when this advice does not work – which then erodes  your confidence further and can escalate your nervous reaction.  So I thought to start with a popular misconception, followed by a solution, tips on using it and why it can work.

Common Misconception: “Just look over people’s heads” This makes sense on the surface, but avoidance tactics like this one simply reinforce your nervous reaction. It also tends to make the presenter look disconnected and stiff. For most people, becoming more comfortable with presenting is a process that requires trying different things and taking small risks to move toward the direction of better control and comfort.

Solution: Instead, try getting into the mindset that you are only having a conversation with one person at a time.  To do this, you speak to and look at one person until you have communicated an idea or thought. You literally only focus on that person, to the point that you are not paying attention to anyone else in the room, at that moment.  You will look at each audience member during the presentation, but individually, not as a group.

When you use this technique, the presentation can feel more like a conversation to you and the audience.  You will find that the audience also becomes more responsive (i.e. nodding, reacting, smiling), which can be more reassuring than talking to a blank wall of faces.  

For many people this idea works for them almost immediately because part of their nervous trigger comes from the feeling of being the center of attention. For others, it might take a bit more time and effort, however it is well worth the effort since embracing this technique can create a lasting change for you.  There can be a few challenges: Some people worry when they first start using this approach that they are staring at one person for too long, and question if it is uncomfortable for the audience member. This usually is a sign that the presenter is not comfortable with this level of eye contact, not the audience member.  Typically, the audience feels that a human being is actually connecting and communicating with them, Vs just getting a data dump.  The more you let them see and experience your personality, the more engaging the meeting is for them.   Having said all of this, if you notice that the person you are looking at breaks eye contact with you frequently, this is a sign they are uncomfortable with that level of attention, so just move onto someone else.

Some people also have trouble staying focused due to their nerves.  Pulling this off depends on your ability concentrate without distraction.  So if you have difficulty, consider working on strengthening your “mental muscle” by taking classes in yoga, tai chi, meditation.  For example in Yoga, there is a simple balancing exercise called the Tree. It is not physically difficult, but if you lose mental focus, you lose your balance. This type of exercise helps you improve concentration and focus.

Pam Bloore