The "Book of Lists" published every year in America has accumulated and ranked a dazzling assortment of fascinating topics. Amongst them is the list of 'mankind's worst fears' Here is what I discovered when I last looked a few years ago:
Do you think that 'death' is our greatest fear? - No, that's tied for sixth place with 'sickness'.
In fifth place is our fear of 'deep water'.
In fourth place comes our fear of 'financial problems'.
In third place, our fear of 'insects and bugs'.
In second place is our fear of 'heights'.
So what do you think ranks as our worst fear?
It is in fact, the prospect of having to stand up in front of an audience and make a speech or give a presentation.
Interestingly, the most common problem among inexperienced presenters is the 'fear of fear' the feeling that they will be unable to overcome this nervousness. This fear is normally multiplied by the number of people they are talking to.
The Value of Nerves
However, the adoption of certain basic principles will help to control nerves.
You will note that I say control, rather than eradicate, which leads to the first of these principles.
• Feeling nervous before and at the start of any presentation is not only natural - it is necessary. Without that keyed-up feeling, the adrenaline will not flow in the presenter and therefore the presentation will be flat and unexciting.
• Remember that of the three key elements in any presentation - i.e. the audience, the content and the presenter - the presenter is the least important.
• Also remember that you are not alone. Nearly every great orator, whether they are a politician, an actor, an evangelist or a great sales person, feels the same nervousness that you feel (indeed many of them feel it worse).
In nearly every case, the audience is on you side.
The biggest fear is probably of 'drying-up'. You will not do this if you are properly prepared with a good set of notes. If you are lost for a word, don't worry, it will either come to you or the audience will supply it.
• Just before you are due to start, sit down in a chair and take two or three deep breaths
• Make sure you have 'warmed-up' your voice before rising to speak
• Be appropriately dressed for the occasion - smart attire adds to you confidence
• When you stand up, 'stand-tall' with feet slightly apart and well grounded on the floor
• Don't fidget - relax
Remember, the only way to learn how to have full control of nerves is to practice making presentations whenever and however possible. Be a "Seeker"
There are of course, a number of key elements within a professional presentation, for example: planning and preparation; structure, verbal delivery; physical delivery; the use of visual aids and of course, the management of the question and answer session. I deal with all of these in separate articles, some of which you can find HERE