We sabotage our own presentations more often than we imagine, and we experience presentation fail more often than necessary.
Self-defeating behaviors come in many forms, but negative self-talk is one of the chief culprits.
We tell ourselves repeatedly that we’ll fail.
We envision humiliation, embarassment, and complete meltdown.
Presentation Fail: You are Responsible
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 presentations.
How can we construct a positive presentation experience on such a spongy foundation?
Negative self-talk translates into bodily reactions of nervousness, trembling, faltering voice, shaking knees, sweating, and flushing. Our sour and weak attitude ensures that we aren’t the greatest source of strength to our teammates in delivering a group presentation. The negative spiral down guarantees that things get worse before they get better. If at all.
Could anyone succeed at anything with this type of visualization? There’s no greater guarantee of failure.
Think Like an Athlete
The world’s elite athletes train the mind as well as the body.
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. All of them agree that the mind-body connection – healthy or unhealthy – impacts performance tremendously.
Leave 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 to 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 a presentation fail. 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. We charge forward boldly and confidently. We present with masterful aplomb and professionalism. With this kind of psychological commitment, we squeeze out the doubts and anxiety. We wring them dry from our psychic fabric. No more presentation fail.
The right kind of preparation allows us to deal capably with the handful of unknowns that might 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 avoiding presentation fail and on preparing the right way in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.