I love the challenge of speaking at conferences, but can recall the mental muscle I had to develop as I began my speaking journey. At one conference I had 45 minutes to create a lasting impact.
My topic; “Personal Resilience”.
What I was very aware of at the time, more than previously, was the power of my inner voice. The frightened, damning critic!
As I prepared, it spoke (loudly) full of doubt and posing unhelpful questions; “Will I have any impact at all?”, “Is the content right?”, “Is there enough, too much?”
The neutralising force in the prep stage was my partner; in her own special (blunt) way telling me to stop worrying and just get on with it, I’ll be fine and the content is great.
On the day I met other presenters, and became aware of my critic comparing me to them, pouring more doubt, will I be credible, who do I think I am, they are so much more professional than me?
Maybe you have an active critic too, which speaks from the scared ego, pulling you back to the safe low risk, do nothing place. For me it accelerates the nerves and anxiety, and makes me feel, unsurprisingly, full of doubt.
But this doesn’t have to be the case. There are many coping methods I have used and worked with when coaching others to present, but at that conference I boldly upgraded the critic instead of just quietening him.
First check your expectations. My discovery confirmed what I already knew. While the critic is yattering, so too is the “encourager”, but with much quieter and, if you can tune into it, calming voice.
Every time the critic makes a comment notice how you feel. Physiologically you slump. This is not good. And if you begin your presentation in this state you are more likely to stumble, stutter and fluff.
When your Encourager makes a comment, and you actually hear it, you may not necessarily instantly become full of joy, but you will be calmer.
Notice both your Critic and your Encourager.
When the critic makes a comment, don’t listen, chose another thought (often the absolute opposite) and keep thinking it. You get to choose who you listen to.
Within a few minutes of following my own advice at that conference, the critic actually upgraded himself and began to help not hinder.
Keep Calm and Carry On!