Many people feel nervous when giving presentations whether to a small group of peers or to a large group of conference delegates. A small amount of increased nervousness can be helpful, with the additional stress hormones in the blood stream giving feelings of being more alert, motivated and enthusiastic. This additional positive energy, good preparation and confident delivery are all aspects of an excellent presentation.
Sometimes, those quite useful nervous feelings can escalate into what is commonly known as performance anxiety. You may notice negative thoughts creeping in, a queasy tummy, sweaty palms and foggy thinking. The triggering of these responses can occur simply by thinking about the up and coming event.
As the stress continues to rise, the fight-flight mechanism becomes activated and blood flow to the frontal cortex of the brain decreases. You are then left acting out of your primitive emotional survival system, it has taken control!
This is when perspective is lost, and an ability to rationally consider the overall circumstances is challenging. You may experience more fearful feelings, a sense of overwhelm, and an inability to think clearly. A sharp contrast to the state required for an effective presentation!
To relieve the stress and emotionally defuse the situation all you have to do is stimulate the blood flow to the frontal cortex. Fortunately there is a straight forward way to do this, restoring perspective and allowing you to regain conscious control.
You may have even been doing this intuitively without realising it!
Lightly hold the frontal eminences (bumps on the forehead mid-way between the hairline and the eyebrows above the eyes) with the pads of the first two finger tips from each hand.
Vividly imagine yourself giving the presentation in as much detail as you can. Involve all the senses, what will you see, hear, and feel? Be aware of what you notice, are you hot, cold, tense, seeing in colour or black and white? Continue to focus on the situation until your mind wanders and you feel calmer. It may be necessary to think this through several times as your reaction to the stressors is changing. If further stress arises as your presentation gets closer, repeat as above.
In the same way that the stress response can be triggered by imagining yourself presenting to your audience, you can also change the stress response using your imagination and the emotional diffusion technique in advance of the event. Your brain does not distinguish between real or imagined.
Tip: Use the emotional stress diffusion technique to maintain perspective.
For further information on stress management coaching contact Hazel Miller at Mdina International
Author: Hazel Miller