Have you ever sat there before a presentation and felt so nervous that your stomach is like a washing machine, and you wish the fire alarm would go off so you don’t have to open your mouth? Well you are not alone. Presentation nerves affect almost everyone who has ever stood up to give a speech or present, even the most experienced speakers.
It’s universal, it’s very common, and it’s completely normal.
As it turns out, changing just one word could make a huge difference to your whole experience and performance in this area.
Instead of using the word presentation nerves, which we associate with negative feelings and doom, we can instead use a word that connotes future success, opportunity, and forward movement: Excitement.
We use the word ‘nerves’ to describe situations where our heart rate goes up, our bodies might feel a bit tingly, our legs shake, we get a dry mouth, our breathing gets shallow, or we start sweating (just to name a few). Ironically, these same physical indicators also happen when we get excited.
1. Feeling The Buzz
The heightened rush of energy associated with pre-presentation nerves is not a bad thing. It is there for a reason; our body and brain know that we are about to do something that is outside our normal day-to-day realm of activity.
We are getting a rush of adrenaline to make us ready to respond to the situation at hand. We can either interpret this energy as negative or positive. Using a word like ‘excitement’ in place of ‘nervous’ is just one way to diffuse the bad thought patterns associated with the event and replace them with good, constructive ones.
2. Science Doesn’t Lie When It Comes To Presentation Nerves
Alison Wood Brooks, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, did a series of tests around positive talk and the effect it has on people’s state of mind and levels of anxiety during tasks like giving a speech, singing karaoke, or taking a math test.
She had them say out loud beforehand, ‘I am calm’ or ‘I am excited’ (and in some test subjects, they said neither). It might seem like a small thing but the effect it had on the subjects’ performances was evident.
Our brains are constantly hungry for information to process. Every second of every waking moment it is taking in stimuli and making sense of information and filing it away for future. We choose what to feed it; and what we choose to feed it makes a huge difference as to how we handle heightened situations of communication.
3. Body Knows Best
In Brooks’ experiment, the people who told themselves ‘I am excited’ outperformed those who told themselves ‘I am calm’ or who said nothing at all. The people who told themselves they were excited reported actually feeling excited.
According to Brooks, trying to tell ourselves that we are calm doesn’t work because being calm is a low arousal state and being anxious is high. They are two opposite states of being, therefore it requires a lot of mental energy to flip from one to the other. That’s why ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ seems almost comical.
Anxiety and excitement are both high arousal states, therefore it takes less mental energy to flip from one to the other.
4. You Are What You Think
Another reason excitement can help in our performance is that associating excitement with a task (as opposed to nervousness or panic) like public speaking can help to change the way we see stressful tasks.
When we pump ourselves up, we associate high energy and a good buzz with presenting or speaking publicly. These situations become an opportunity rather than a threat.
5. Small But Mighty
This might seem like a small change in how you think but this will bring you dividends in the quality of your experience.
You may not only feel more calm and confident but actually ENJOY the experience of presenting or communicating publicly.
We all want to enjoy our time up there, not be shaking and sweating. Rushing through our words just so we can get to the end and sit down again!
So the next time you have to give a presentation, try thinking this and saying it out loud:
- “I’m excited!”
- “I have something to give!”
- “I am buzzing!”
Drown out the negative thoughts about your presentation. When you change your thinking, you can change your performance and achieve the results you want. So, Keep Excited and Carry On!
I think you’ll also like these posts if you are working on dealing with your presentation nerves:
ConfidentSpeak is a specialist S.T.E.M Communications & Coaching Consultancy based in Dublin, Ireland. We work with leading Irish and international companies and executives at home and abroad. Contact us for details on our range of corporate/private programmes for executives, sales teams and technical professionals.