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Three Proven Strategies to Develop Public Presentation Confidence

Aug 17, 2007
The first of my three strategies is this: if you don't feel calm, fake it. That's right. If you cannot be genuinely cool, calm and confident pretend you are. I'm going to show you how to fake it, to act as if you're calm and confident.

To see how a change in your thinking will affect your bodily reactions and symptoms of fear, think about your impending public presentation. Do you immediately feel that all-too-familiar stab of fear? We sometimes call them butterflies in the tummy. Tuning in to those feelings lets you experience with me how those feelings are only that: feelings. And you can also see clearly that it's YOUR THOUGHTS AND MEMORIES which have produced the feelings - the butterflies, the dry mouth, the racing pulse, the quivery voice. Your memories of previous fear-filled events, have triggered symptoms of fear.

For our first way to greater confidence, please take these steps:

Deliberately open your mouth just a little bit, and consciously let your tongue go very limp.

Look at yourself in the mirror. It's physically impossible for you to be tense and anxious while you're opening your mouth just a little bit, and while you're keeping your tongue limp and relaxed.

Now that I've got you relaxed, a little...talk to yourself in the mirror. It's alright. There's only you and me here and I won't tell anyone. Keeping your tongue very limp and your mouth, chin and jaw areas very loose, say a few words. For instance, try saying "I'm feeling really terrified about that talk next Tuesday.''

Now, please go and get your speaking notes, the ones you've prepared for the talk. If you haven't finished your preparation, postpone this exercise until you have an outline of your talk distilled to speaking notes which will be your special prompts or cues on the big day.

With those brief notes, stand in front of the mirror again. Keep your mouth nice and relaxed. Let's forget about keeping your tongue too limp, just concentrate on looking at yourself in the mirror knowing that your face from the nose down, is relaxed.

With that very relaxed mouth, start giving your talk. Smile at the little joke you'll tell your audience next week. Look suitably worried when you give that statistic about the spread of illiteracy or poverty. That's the first strategy.

Maybe you want to say to me: "But Jeannette, I've only been pretending that I was feeling calm and confident about that next presentation. I've only been acting as if I was truly calm and confident for the sake of this exercise". My response?

"Think about this, my sweetness. During the five minutes or so that you were doing that exercise, you WERE calm and relaxed. And you can feel that very same way in front of an audience".

In my counselling and coaching, and in my e-kit Calming Words, I constantly remind people to be kind to themselves. To take little steps toward your confident self. Next step is to do that calm relaxed rehearsal again with an audience of a few family and friends. Tell them you're doing an experiment.

If you don't have time to get a little friendly audience together, remember I'm up there with you at your next presentation. Feel my calming presence next to you.

Just before you start your presentation, do this: open your mouth a little and remember that image of you standing relaxed in front of the mirrror. The mind is a marvellous thing. Just by triggering that memory of that relaxed state, will re-produce that feeling. Finish this sentence: if my memories of fear can produce feelings of fear, my memories of speaking in a confident and relaxed way can produce feelings of being _________and _______.

SECOND STRATEGY: LET'S GET PHYSICAL AND REALLY TENSE Some people respond better to physical ways to feel more relaxed. This is a tactic used by actors before going onstage. Stand at arm's length away from a wall. Place both your palms flat on the wall at about shoulder height in front of you. Push against the wall with your palms - as if you were trying to push the wall down.

Notice that your abdominal area is totally engaged in that effort. It is those muscles in your solar plexus that are vital to keeping you centred and calm. While engaged in that physical effort your body cannot also produce the noradrenaline which is the precursor to those panicky feelings of fear.

Even in this short article, I do need you to understand that there is a physical relationship between:

The way you breathe,

How you stand and hold your abdominal muscles and

How you speak.

Doing exercises to strengthen your abdominal muscles and to become more aware of them, will be of great assistance to you in controlling nervousness.

Contracting those muscles reduces or stops the production of norepinephrine or noradrenaline - the panic hormone. In fact, one of your body's major nerve-control centres lies behind what's called The Vital Triangle, so controlling that area is good also for control of anger and pain.

THIRD STRATEGY - VISUALISE SUCCESS Another strategy to assuage your own nervousness is to make sure that you're totally familiar with the venue at which you'll speak. When you're practising or rehearsing your presentation in front of the mirror, when you're smiling and basking in the positive feelings from the audience, imagine that you're there in that auditorium or theatre and on that stage. See the colour of the curtains. Or even their color! Visualise the placement of the chairs for your audience. Put as much detail as you can into your visualisation. Feel it.

That marvellous feeling of actually being there and feeling calm and confident.

My three strategies or public speaking tips were... just the tip of the iceberg. To your continued happiness and success.
About the Author
Based in Melbourne, Australia Dr Jeannette Kavanagh is a solution-oriented counsellor helping people overcome anxiety and panic attacks, particularly when speaking or performing in public. Sign up for her FREE ezine Public Speaking Success
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