This is even more the case with a team presentation with more moving parts and variables in the mix.
The good effects of the right kind of diligent rehearsal is twofold: 1) your material is delivered in a logical, cogent fashion without stumble . . . and, 2) the practice imbues you and your team with confidence so that stage fright is reduced to a minimum and your team’s credibility is enhanced.
Benefits of Business Presentation Practice
Practice strips away the symptoms of stage fright as you concentrate on your message and its delivery rather than extraneous audience reaction to your appearance.
But you reap the benefits of practice if your practice makes sense. This means that you practice the way you perform and avoid the two biggest rehearsal mistakes.
First, do not start your presentation repeatedly, as almost all of us have done at points in our presentation careers.
Something in our psyche urges us to “start over” when we make a mistake. When we stumble, we want a “do-over” so that we can put together a perfect rehearsal from start to finish.
But when we do this, what we are actually practicing is the “starting over.” We become very good at “starting over” when we make a mistake.
But is that what we plan to do when we err in our actual presentation? Start over? No, of course not. We don’t get to start over after evey blunder.
But that is exactly what you have practiced.
If you’ve practiced that way, what will you do when you stumble? You won’t know what to do or how to handle the situation, since you have never practiced fighting through an error and continuing on.
You’ve practiced only one thing – starting over.
Instead of starting over when you err, practice the gliding over of “errors,” never calling attention to them. Practice recovering from your error and minimizing it. Perform according to the principle that regardless of what happens, you planned it.
The second big mistake is practicing in front of a mirror.
Don’t practice in front of a mirror unless you plan to deliver your talk to a mirror. It’s plain creepy to watch yourself in the mirror while talking for an extended period of time. There is nothing to be gained by rehearsing one way . . . only to do something entirely different for the actual event.
Of course, you will observe yourself in the mirror as you adjust your stance and appearance to ensure that what you feel is what people see while you present on all occasions. But you do not practice your finished talk in front of a mirror. This is one of the worst things you can do in your business presentation practice.
Why would you want to grow accustomed to looking at yourself present, only to be faced with an entirely different situation for the actual presentation?
That’s just bizarre. Instead, practice in front of your roommate . . . or go to the classroom or auditorium where you’re scheduled to present.
In short, create as much of the real situation as possible ahead of time.
To ensure an especially powerful presentation every time, practice hard and repeatedly . . . but practice the right way.
When we speak of presentation stage fright, we are really talking about the battle within ourselves as we prepare to deliver our presentation.
It’s self-confidence versus self-doubt.
Confidence is one of those elusive qualities. It’s almost paradoxical. When we have it, it’s invisible. When we don’t have it, it’s all too apparent to us.
Confidence in public speaking is hard to come by.
Or so we think.
Let’s back into this thing called confidence.
Controlling Presentation Stage Fright
Your measure of your self-confidence is really a measure of your conception of yourself. Recognize that you don’t need the validation of others in what you do.
This doesn’t mean to act in ways immature and self-indulgent and uncaring of others’ expectations. It means charting your own course with your internal moral and professional compass and having the strength of mind and purpose not to yield to kibitzers, naysayers, and kneejerk critics.
For many, the audience is your bogeyman. And after reading about the symptoms and hearing so much about handwringing over presentation stage fright, if you weren’t fearful of business speaking before, you certainly are now. For some reason many folks fear the audience. Needlessly.
But understand that they are not gathered there to harm you . . . they are gathered to hear what you have to say. And 99.99 percent of them mean you well. They want you to succeed, so that they can benefit in some way.
Yes, even your fellow students want you to succeed. They want to be entertained. Please entertain us, they think. They are open to whatever new insight you can provide. And they know, for a fact, that they will be in your same place many times during their careers.
They are fellow-travelers in the business school presentation journey.
And so confidence is yours for the taking.
Confidence is not a thing. It cannot be grasped or packaged or bought. It’s a state of mind, isn’t it? It’s a feeling.
When we get right down to it, it really is just the mental context within which we perform. What does it really mean to be confident? Can you answer that direct question? Think for a moment.
See? We can’t even think of confidence outside of doing something, of performing an action.
Is it certitude?
Is it knowledge?
Is it bravery?
Is it surety?
Think of the times when you are confident. You might be confident at playing a certain sport or playing a musical instrument. It could be an activity with which you feel comfortable, through repetition or intimate familiarity.
Why are you confident?
Paradoxically, it’s the absence of uncertainty. For it’s uncertainty that makes us fearful. That, and the dread of some consequence – embarrassment or ridicule.
It should be recognized that many people do fear speaking before an audience. Presentation stage fright is so universal and it is so pervasive that we must come to grips with it.
This fear has made its way down through the ages. It has afflicted and paralyzed thousands of speakers and presenters who have come before you. Generations of speakers before you have tackled this fear. George Rowland Collins is an old master who recognized the phenomenon in 1923 and its awful effect on the would-be presenter . . .
The very first problem that faces the average man in speech-making is the problem of nervousness. To stand up before an audience without a scrap of paper or a note of any kind, to feel the eyes of dozens and even hundreds of people upon you, to sense the awful silence that awaits your own words, to know that you must depend upon yourself and yourself alone to hold the audience’s attention is as trying a task as it is possible to undertake. Most men find the task too great and shun it religiously. Those who do attempt it, voluntarily, or involuntarily, testify to the severity of the physical and mental suffering it involves.
The solution? How have centuries of speakers successfully overcome this bete noire of stage fright?
They have done it by reducing uncertainty.
Reduce your uncertainty by following the Three Ps.
Principles, Preparation, Practice
Reduce your uncertainty by applying the Three Ps: Principles, Preparation, Practice. Through these, you achieve a wealth of self-confidence. They are so utterly essential to Power Presenting that they bear repetition and constant reinforcement. They are the cornerstone upon which you build your style, your confidence, your performance pizzazz.
The 7 principles of presenting offered here at Business School Presenting™ – the “secrets” of the masters – are grouped under Stance, Voice, Gesture, Movement, Expression, Appearance and Passion. Each of these deserves its own chapter and, indeed, has its own chapter in my book The Official College Guide to Business School Presenting.
Prepare your talk, then practice your talk at least 4 times, exactly as you will deliver it – without stopping.
When you apply the Three Ps, you reduce uncertainty. You are in possession of the facts. You are prepared. You know what to expect because you have been there before, and because you practice. You eliminate Presentation Stage Fright.
There is always, of course, an element of uncertainty. You cannot control everything or everybody, and this causes a tinge of anxiety, but that’s fuel for your creative engine.
By controlling the 90 percent that you can, you are more than ready to handle the 10 percent of uncertainty that awaits you.
So the key for you is to control what you can and to dismiss your fear of the rest. Recognize that this fear is what makes you human, and it is this humanity that gives us commonality with all the public speakers and presenters who have come before us.
It is their advice that we heed to our improvement.
For instance, master J. Berg Esenwein from 109 years ago:
Even when you are quaking in your boots with the ague of fear, and your teeth fain would beat “retreat,” you must assume a boldness you do not feel. For doing this there is nothing like deep stately breathing, a firm look at the dreaded audience . . . . But do not fear them. They want you to succeed, and always honor an exhibition of pluck. They are fair and know you are only one man against a thousand. . . . Look at your audience squarely, earnestly, expressively.