Wonderful article, Jenny! This has happened to me in my six years in Toastmasters. I have even seen people freeze wordless for five minutes! Now I know what to do. I see that visualization makes a difference in all things that we do -- sports, speaking, work, everything. Thanks so much! This is really going to help me.
Get Your Body to Behave
You’ve done hours of preparation to speak in front of a group or camera. You’re ready, right? You step up to the podium. Uh-oh. Your voice is shaking. You’re short of breath. And now you’re sweating profusely. What happened?
Is there any way to get your body to behave when you’re making a presentation? A certain amount of nervous energy is normal, even a must – it boosts your adrenaline levels and gives you sparkle. But all your mental preparation might be undone by a sweaty, stressed-out delivery – if you don’t prepare inside as well.
Do you remember the movie “Broadcast News”? Albert Brooks plays a brilliant reporter who longs to be the stylish on-camera news anchor. There’s no doubt he’s got talent. But as soon as the camera and lights come on, he looks worried, sweaty and rumpled. Viewers see the nonverbal communication and are turned off. They stop listening to the words. No matter how much he wants to succeed, he can’t seem to make his body behave.
Is there an answer to this dilemma?
Your conscious mind can’t control your body’s reactions. But you can prepare your body and emotions ahead of time for the pressure you will feel – and get them fully aligned to support you.
Professional athletes do this all the time. Since the 1980’s, sports coaches have advocated a visualization called mental rehearsal. They regard this inside preparation as essential to peak performance, as important as actual practice time. And the results have shown increased skill development, faster competitive times, and greater confidence and ease under pressure.**
Can you guess why?
Because when you imagine a feeling of calm and confidence,
knowing you are ready to give it your best...
When you imagine being relaxed and energized in front of a group of people or a camera,
smiling with genuine enjoyment,
your eyes bright with enthusiasm and the desire to connect with your audience...
When you imagine seeing your audience respond with interest on their faces,
nodding and smiling back…
…your brain and body experience what you imagine as completely real.
That’s right. The same neural pathways are activated in your brain and body when you imagine a successful presentation as happens when you really give a successful presentation.* World-class athletes would agree.
The great news is that inside preparation makes a dramatic difference in all avenues of performance, including public speaking and communication in general. Our society promotes the idea that we can do it all with our conscious, rational mind. But we are not machines. Even highly-skilled professionals can fall apart under pressure.
You can’t separate your body from your mind. Your body and emotions need to be prepared as thoroughly as you prepare your speech or presentation. The less-conscious parts of you – your body language and self-talk – usually fly under the radar of your conscious mind. Self-doubt and self-criticism are classic causes of nervousness, performance anxiety and stage fright.
Experience tells us that our worst doubts and fears often show up under pressure and can be strong enough to sabotage our success. Despite our best efforts, our conscious mind can’t control our inner critic and signs of physical stress.
But by preparing in advance on the inside, you give yourself the antidote to self-doubt and stress.
So the next time you’re going to speak in front of a group of people, don’t make the mistake of preparing only your power points.
To effectively prepare for a presentation, go further than arranging your stories and facts. Remember that what you feel emotionally and physically needs to be aligned with what you have to say.
Use your preparation time to mentally rehearse:
From inside, see, hear and feel yourself doing well at each stage of your presentation.
Imagine feeling energized and comfortable,
with a warm smile and intention to connect,
speaking with confidence and ease.
Imagine your audience smiling and nodding,
showing their involvement and interest.
When you prepare your body and emotions to expect success, you fully align your spoken words and nonverbal communication, mind and body. As a result, even your neural pathways are primed and ready to support peak performance on all levels.
Success will surely follow.
* Daniel Goleman. Social Intelligence. Bantam Books, 2006.
* Norman Doige, M.D. The Brain that Changes Itself. Penguin Books, 2007.
**Porter, Kay., Foster, Judy. Visual Athletics: Visualization for Peak Sports Performance Brown & Benchmark, 1990.
**Porter, Kay. The Mental Athlete. Human Kinetics, 2003.
Learn more about the author, Jenny Davidow.
Comment on this article
Posted by Charles Waugh, Bellingham, Washington |
Nov 07, 2010
Posted by Bill Bradfield, EA, Blaine, Washington |
Nov 08, 2010
Great article as usual. I have done a lot of speaking and have learned through experience how to prepare myself. You have put into words what I think I have been doing, without really knowing it. Your advice is right on and should be followed by anyone getting ready to speak to a group, no matter what size.
If one comes accross confident and calm, the audience reacts accordingly.
Keep writing great articles.
Posted by Jason Fullen, Pleasant Grove, Utah |
Nov 08, 2010
What a great article. I fully believe in everthing you've said. I think people underestimate the power of mental preparedness. Referring to Charles comment-I too have been in meetings were the presenter has embarrassingly stumbled with words, and not only is it uncomfortable for the presenter but also the people hearing it.
My wife has a presentation this week, so this article will really help her. Thanks
Look forward to your next article
Posted by Jenny Davidow, Seattle, Washington |
Nov 09, 2010
I think most of us can relate to the "deer frozen in the headlights" feeling when we first started to speak in front of groups. Five seconds can feel like five minutes! But in some cases, like the one Charles reported, the wordless freeze really was for five minutes.
Thank you, Charles, Bill and Jason, for sharing your experiences!
Posted by Elvis Arias, Jersey City, New Jersey |
Feb 02, 2011
just what the doctor ordered
- public speaking
- performance anxiety
- stage fright
- mental rehearsal
- body language
- nonverbal communication
- neural pathways
- daniel goleman
- kay porter