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To Be or Not to Be Nervous - You Decide

In 'deciding' what to write this month, I came across a wonderful book that triggered a powerful idea.  The book is "The Go-Giver, A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea", by Bob Burg and John David Mann.   In the story a character is quoted as saying, "And I saw that my old belief system was only getting in the way.  It wasn't serving.  So I decided to change it."  It was that line that triggered my newsletter idea.

The first step in the preparation of any presentation is to take control of how you want to feel as you stand before your audience.  You can have a well-structured presentation with great slides but if your nerves get the best of you, your presentation is doomed.  Audiences will be subjected to 'happy feet', a rushed pace, flitting eye contact and voice disintegration.  Your mouth gets dry and your message will be lost.

I have experienced and witnessed this phenomenon many times.  As a presentation skills coach, I owed it to myself and my clients to resolve this problem.  What's really interesting is that the answer has everything to do with making a decision.

I believe that our behaviors are directly linked to our feelings. If I feel angry, I raise my voice.  If I feel sad, I may cry.   I have also long believed that our feelings are a bi-product of our belief systems.  I have followed the Rational Emotive Therapy (RET) philosophy of Dr. Albert Ellis for the past 30 years.  His is a cognitive behavior therapy  (CBT)  helps patients understand the thoughts and feelings that influence their behavior.  It's all about identifying and changing destructive or disturbing thought patterns that have a negative influence on behavior.  

Many of the presenters I work with indeed do have disturbing thought patterns when they are in front of groups.  "They are going to eat me alive."  "What if I forget everything?" "I get so nervous when I present."  "I hate giving presentations."

What I know to be true is if these phrases are circling around in your brain, your behaviors will prove you right.  They will eat you alive, you will forget something, you will get nervous and you will continue to hate making presentations.  What if you could change that belief system?

One woman I worked with recently was sent to the workshop I was conducting because she was deathly afraid of giving presentations.  Her baseline video indeed proved that.  Her body language was closed, she barely made eye contact, she stumbled over her words.  Yet she is a very bright engineer with opportunities galore!  I asked her three questions after her presentation:

1.   How is your nervousness serving you?

2.   How much longer are you going to remain nervous?  Another day, a week, a couple months, a year?

3.  What would it take to rearrange your thoughts so you feel the way you want to feel and present more confidently?  

This young woman returned to class the next day with another opportunity to present in front of the group.  She was a different person.  She stood tall, smiled and spoke from her heart.  The class went crazy.  I asked her what changed?

She simply replied, "I made a decision that I wasn't going to be nervous anymore.  It wasn't serving me well."

It's not always that simple nor do all behaviors change that quickly, but it is always your decision to examine, change or stop behaviors that are not serving you well in your career or in life.

What are your internal conversations when you are asked to present?  What decisions do you need to make?

Contact Red Cup Presentations if you want to learn more about improving your presence and moving your audiences to action.

Don't forget to click on my blog tab and catch up on previous articles.



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