Insurance Industry News from ProgramBusiness.comManage the Butterflies
It’s pretty common knowledge by now—the number one fear of Americans is speaking in public. It’s a rare person who has not experienced some kind of anxiety when making a presentation to an audience. Butterflies in the stomach, dry mouth, sweating palms, racing heartbeat, quivering voice, twitching muscles—these are all common symptoms of stage fright. Some people may break down in tears, draw a complete blank, or even faint.
But the ability to handle yourself well in front of an audience—to be poised, dynamic, and remain unflappable under pressure—is an invaluable skill in the business world. Knowing some techniques to manage your anxiety will help you pull off any presentation with aplomb.
I have three categories of techniques:
Behavioral – things you can do to minimize your nervousness. Be prepared. Know your subject; know your audience; prepare your talk ahead of time; have it well-organized; and compose it in a concise, bullet-point outline form so you can easily refer to it to keep your train of thought without reading it verbatim. Don’t wing it.
Practice. Rehearse it out loud in front of your mirror or a colleague or a video camera. Reading it to yourself doesn’t count. The more you deliver it out loud, the more familiar you’ll be with it and the more comfortable you’ll be giving it.
Use props or visuals. This physical action gives you purposeful movement, something to do with your hands, which can diminish the helplessness that often comes over us when we’re nervous. An added benefit of visuals is that they can serve as your notes.
Wear comfortable clothing. This may sound crazy, but it’s a big factor. If you know that you tend to get flushed and hot when you’re nervous, don’t wear heavy or tight-fitting garments. Make sure you wear clothing that breathes. Polyesters or other man-made fabrics do not breathe and will make you sweat all the more. Ladies, if your fair complexion tends to blush when you’re nervous, avoid scooped neck blouses. High collars or turtlenecks do a good job of camouflaging one of the most flush-sensitive parts of the body.
Speak often. Instead of ducking opportunities to speak, seek them out. Like any skill, you’ll get better and more comfortable the more you do it.
Physical – actions that can help release nervous energy.
Exert yourself. Nervous energy is really the fight or flight chemical adrenaline, which needs to be released. If you don’t exert some physical movement to release it, it’s going to exacerbate your nervous symptoms. Do isometric exercises: push against a wall; try to lift up your chair while you’re sitting in it. Do neck rolls; tighten and release different muscles.
Breathe. Take deep, slow breaths before you speak. Also pause during your presentation whenever you feel on the edge of panic, and take a deep breath. This is a key technique—almost all the symptoms of nervousness I mentioned above are a result of lack of oxygen. Your body craves extra oxygen during times of stress, so deliver it.
Move during your talk. Don’t stand rigid, hiding behind a lectern. Stride across the front of the room. Use big, purposeful gestures. Put energy in your vocals—vary your volume, rate, and inflection. Again, you need physical movement to release your anxiety. Without it, your anxiety will overcome you. Click for the whole story...