A Quick Tip for Handling Presentation Jitters
by Tim Brunson, PhD
One of the biggest obstacles to becoming a master presenter is those butterflies that seem to be fluttering around in your stomach before you start to speak. Although you are an expert in your subject, your fears create a fight/flight reaction. Your hands become cold, your vital organs stop functioning properly, and a majority of your brain's blood flow shifts to the ancient reactive defensive areas that reside just above your brain stem. Your mind and body begin shutting down. You are not your best. However, you can speak to small and large audiences in total comfort and excitement if you only understand what is really going on.
In the 1990's a group of Italian neuroscientists discovered what they call mirror neurons. These brain cells, which are scattered throughout your brain, react when you observe the behaviors of others. This also happens when you sense the intentions of others. So as a speaker you are picking up on the anticipation and anxieties of your audience. Your mind becomes a dumping ground for their worries. Achieving a peak mental state prior to presenting starts when you realize that empathetic communication goes both ways.
Your audience wants to be transformed, entertained, and engaged. This happens when you establish a peak presenter state. By choosing two or three words to represent how you want the audience to perceive you and fully associating with these words, the mirror neurons located in their brains begin picking up your charisma. Example words include: humorous, witty, entertaining, knowledgeable, friendly, compassionate, effective, etc. If you receive a post-presentation evaluation, don't be surprised if your feedback includes the words that you programmed into your mind. By the way, I also trigger this state by using a motivational phrase before I give my introduction. My favorite one is "Its show time!"
As an expert, you benefit your audience by presenting at your best. Once you understand how easy it is to get into a master presenter state, you'll forget that you ever experienced anything else.
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