This is how someone described a work presentation to me. “I can feel my heart beat out of my chest, to the point I feel dizzy. I can hear my heart beat in my ears – and it’s making me unable to hear or concentrate on what they are asking me. I can’t think of what I’m saying so I rehearse the talk and hope I’m repeating it properly as I’m not sure of what’s happening – other than I’m terrified. I just want to get through it. It passes – somehow I do it and I can’t remember any of it – it’s a blur. People tell me it went well enough but I don’t believe them, I think they are just being nice. “
Many people experience presenting with this degree of nervousness. It’s one of the most common fears I work with in my practice.
What most presenters fear is:
1) Looking stupid. Making and learning from mistakes as we grow and mature is part of normal human development. Some of us were laughed at and ridiculed when we made mistakes and that resulted in feelings of stupidity. We fear we could be laughed at again. Presenting in front of others often triggers the fear of looking stupid or being laughed at.
2) Looking nervous. Most nervous presenters dread that others can see that they are nervous. They hate that their skin glows red, that their hands shake as they point to information, that their voice has a higher pitch than normal or is also shaky. They hate that the nervousness is visible – otherwise they could handle the feelings –if only they could keep them hidden.
3) Being judged as inadequate. Some nervous presenters don’t believe in their abilities, have perfectionist tendencies and have huge fear of coming across as ‘not good enough’. The fear of being exposed puts pressure on the person and results in a lot of fear.
4) Being compared negatively to other work colleagues. Competitiveness is a natural part of our animal make-up. There is healthy competition. There are also competition fears: that we won’t ‘win’, that others are better, that we won’t be picked, that we don’t have what it takes and that we will miss out. We compare or are compared to others – implicitly and explicitly and if we feel we are lacking that brings with it much fear.
5) Making a mistake or not knowing the answer. Some people feel a lot of internal pressure about having to know the answer to anything asked. This can be compounded by external expectation that they know the answers also. With high expectation and an intolerance towards making mistakes or not knowing there can be a lot of fear – fear of losing the job or promotion or reputation.
To reduce the fear of presentations there are many helpful approaches:
1) Positive visualization, positive self talk and mental rehearsal for an enjoyable experience.
2) Breathing practices that help calm the body.
3) Inner child work to resolve the fear of negative attention, authority figures and of looking silly or making mistakes.
4) Self esteem work to build a better relationship with ourselves.
5) Skills development to become more competent and therefore more confident in our work.
6) Practice! E.g joining a speaking group or chairing meetings etc
Many surveys put presentation fear in the number 1 position. Most jobs require some presentation and many people are held back because of the fear. Please be reassured that it is fully resolvable.
I’m available to discuss how what I do can be of assistance to you, so feel free to give me a call.
I’m contactable at 01 207 9615
Or you can get me by email email@example.com
Have a lovely week,