“Fear is a pair of handcuffs on your soul.” – Faye Dunaway
Have you been told to practice your presentation in front of a mirror?
That’s terrible advice!
Practicing in front of a mirror focuses you on YOU which makes you self-conscious.
Self-consciousness is the opposite of the stream-of-conscious state you want to be in when you speak.
The goal is to focus on your audience (not yourself).
Are you thinking, “I agree with this in principle; but it’s easier said than done. What I want to know is HOW can I get over my nerves and focus on my audience instead of feeling like I’m going to __________ (fill in the blank) ?”
A client came to me who was going to be pitching to a room full of investors at the Paley Center in New York City.
She had had a “nightmare” experience a few weeks before where she had “frozen” in front of a VIP audience.
She had become painfully aware that the future of her venture – in which she had invested years and her life savings – depended on getting a yes from these venture capitalists.
The enormity of the situation “got” to her and her mind went blank. It took several awkward moments before she regained her notes … and her composure.
By then, it was too late. She had lost their respect – and any chance of a deal.
She came to me in the hopes I could help her regain her confidence so she could walk into this high-opportunity situation at the Paley Center and land funding from these venture capitalists.
I asked her, “You’ve heard of MBWA – Management By Walking Around?”
She said, “Isn’t that when leaders get out of their office and walk around to connect with employees -instead of holing up behind their desk where they become isolated and out of touch?”
“Exactly. We’re going to Rehearse By Walking Around.
We’re going to get out from behind that mirror and walk around the lake to connect with your intentions instead of practicing in your head where it’s easy to get up tight and out of touch.”
She asked, “How will walking help me get over my stage-fright?”
“Going for a walk gets your oxygen pumping, your blood flowing and aligns your left and right brain so you’re at your creative, intellectual best.
Furthermore, looking around at your surroundings while navigating your way is a way to practice that multi-focus type of concentration where you’re sharing your message and observing and adapting to your surroundings – all at the same time – without going blank or getting distracted.”
“Really. Did you play sports growing up?”
“Yes, I played soccer in high school and college.”
“Then you know that we play the way we practice.
I had the privilege of working with Rod Laver (who won the Grand Slam of Tennis twice) when I co-managed his tennis facility on Hilton Head Island, SC.
Rocket thought it didn’t make sense to just ‘rally and hit balls’ in the days before a match. He thought if you wanted to serve well and return well – you ought to practice serving and returning.”
I told her, “I think speaking is like playing a sport.”
“It has many of the same elements.
We prep for speaking as we would an important match. If we want to access that peak performance zone state where we turn nervousness into focus and become one with what we’re doing, we better GET MOVING.
Walking (or running or working out on the treadmill or stair-stepper) WHILE you rehearse sets up that sublime sense of entrainment where there’s no room at the mental inn for doubts – just determination.
Walking embodies your message. You’re not just rehearsing; you’re immersing yourself in your message.”
My client was open to this rather unique approach – so we headed out around the lake to prep her pitch.
As we walked and talked, she started obsessing about how afraid she was of having another “meltdown.”
I asked this bright, talented entrepreneur, “I bet when you were in high school and college playing soccer, you were a ‘Give-me-the-ball kind of player’ when the game was on the line.”
She smiled and said, “Yes, I was.”
I told her, “That’s how you want to approach this pitch. Become a ‘Give me the ball’ kind of speaker.
Instead of worrying about what could go WRONG … FILL YOUR MIND with appreciation for this opportunity and FOCUS 100% on how you’re going to do everything you can to make it go RIGHT.”
She did just that.
She transformed her approach and walked into that auditorium with determination instead of doubts.
She “walked and talked” in the halls in the moments before her pitch and embodied her message and exuded an athletic confidence that commanded respect.
She filled her mind with how grateful she was for this opportunity – and projected the joy and pride that helped her hit it out of the park – and favorably impress everyone in the room.
How about you?
Are you prepping for an important pitch or presentation?
How do you overcome your fear or stage-fright?
How do you prepare to walk in with an athletic “give-me-the-ball” confidence that captures the favorable attention of everyone in the room?
How do you keep yourself from getting brain-freeze?