Self-defeating behaviors come in many forms, but negative self-talk is one of the chief culprits.
This is especially prevalent in our business presentations. We sabotage our own presentations more often than we imagine.
We tell ourselves repeatedly that we’ll fail.We envision humiliation, embarassment, and complete meltdown.
Negative self-talk begins with the most ubiquitous cliche in business school – “I hate presentations.” This is the number one culprit that leads to inevitably awful presentations. It undermines everything we strive for in business school presenting.
How can we construct any positive presentation experience on such a spongy foundation?
Think Like a World-Class Athlete
Negative self-talk translates into bodily reactions of nervousness, trembling, faltering voice, shaking knees, sweating, and flushing. Moreover, our sour and weak attitude ensures that we aren’t the greatest source of strength to our teammates if we happen to be delivering a group presentation.
The negative spiral down guarantees that things get worse before they get better . . . if at all.
There is, in fact, no greater guarantee of failure. How could anyone succeed at anything with this type of visualization?
The world’s elite athletes train the mind as well as the body, and visualization of successful outcomes is one of the techniques they use to prepare for competition. I work occasionally with sports psychologists and mental toughness coaches who train athletes in visualization techniques, and all of are one opinion that the mind-body connection – healthy or unhealthy – impacts performance tremendously.
Leaving aside the specific techniques for a later time and the psychological underpinnings of it that go back more than a century, let’s say here and now that we must at least rid ourselves of the negative self-talk so that we can give ourselves a fighting chance of succeeding at business presenting.
So why do we talk ourselves down into the morass of self-defeat? Quite possibly, it’s the widespread ignorance of how to deliver a powerful presentation, and this ignorance means incredible uncertainty of performance. Ignorance, uncertainty, and pressure to perform breed fear.
In my experience, it’s this fear of the unknown that drives up anxiety. So the key to reducing that anxiety is uncertainty reduction – thorough preparation and control of the variables within our power.
Preparation is the second of the Three Ps of Speaking Technique – Principles, Preparation, Practice. Can we foresee everything that might go wrong? No, of course not, and we don’t even want to . . . instead, we plan everything that will go right, and we focus on that. We leave to our own adaptability and confidence to field the remaining unexpected 10 percent.
Envision Your Triumph
No one can win by constantly visualizing failure. Envision this, instead – you deliver a tight, first-rate presentation that hits all the right notes, weaves a story that grips your audience, that keeps the audience rapt, and ends in a major ovation and a satisfying feeling of a job well-done.
When we take the stage, we put our minds on our intent, and we charge forward boldly and confidently, executing our presentation with masterful aplomb and professionalism. With this kind of psychological commitment, we squeeze out the doubts and anxiety, wring them dry from our psychic fabric.
The right kind of preparation allows us to deal capably with the handful of unknowns that might wiggle in to nettle us.
Positive self-talk is an essential part of your schema for preparing an especially powerful presentation and developing personal competitive advantage.
Find more on preparing the right way in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.