You enter a meeting and your manager divides the room into breakout teams.
Have each team discuss challenges they face with a project, a monthly sales (please choose a topic that is relevant to you, dear reader), and then come up with suggestions on how to improve the situation. Each team appoints a leader who presents their team’s findings to the entire group at the end of the breakout session.
Sounds easy enough, right? Well, here are my questions: Are you someone who would be comfortable being chosen as a team leader and giving this mini-presentation? Or are you someone who fills you with a sense of anxiety even now as you read this scenario?
Most people, given enough preparation time, can structure and deliver a presentation without too many nerves getting the better of them. They rehearse, reflect and refine their speaking style until they feel relatively comfortable with the content and the flow of the words. You could even practice standing with poise and composure, try some natural-looking arm gestures, and even make an effort to show an engaged facial expression.
But the idea of giving an impromptu speech — even for a few minutes — can really upset some people. The sequence I have described happened to a coaching client of mine last week. She’s making successful strides in overcoming public discomfort, and she even raised her hand during the outbreak and boldly offered to give the presentation on behalf of her team.
She felt a rush of nervousness and was determined. “I’ll go first and get it over with,” she said as she relayed the meetup to me during our coaching session. However, the manager threw her a curve ball. He chose the team across the room to go first. Instead of starting, my client was now destined to be the last to go after listening to every other team leader’s presentation. That became unbearable. With each progressive speech, my client became more and more restless. She began to convince herself that she couldn’t compete.
In fact, just before her presentation, she pretended to take a phone call. The presenting role was passed to another member of her team.
“On the drive home, I was so disappointed in myself,” she said.
I am sharing this story with you because my client is not alone in this. My neuroscientist friend, Professor Wendy Suzuki of New York University, reminds us that 90 percent of the world’s population experiences “everyday anxiety” in a variety of social situations, and public speaking tops the list.
Here are some specific steps you can take when asked to give an impromptu speech.
Stop your negative thoughts immediately
Our neural pathways for how we think about ourselves and our abilities have formed over time so redirecting them will take time, but the first step is to understand that you are redirecting the negative energy of a negative thought be able. In fact, you can use the adrenaline rush to get you into action.
The first action is to consciously say “STOP” to yourself the moment the negative thought creeps into your brain. Next, you need to actively fill your brain with something else.
Focus on a question that requires an answer
Immediately ask yourself a direct question, “What is the expectation here?” and answer as simply as possible. In this case, the answer is “I should give a summary”. Answer the first question, then discipline yourself to focus on the next question. Focusing through a specific checklist will reduce abstract negative emotions.
Write a simple outline
When we are nervous we tend to think too much and that only adds to our nerves. So, here’s a basic formula for any presentation. Remember that and etch it into your brain. Favor, backdrop, challenge, result, summary, favor.
Politeness allows you to feel comfortable being seen and heard by others. “Thank you, good day, nice to be here.” Before you start, give yourself a moment.
Staging doesn’t mean you have to tell the entire story of the planet. Just take us with you into the situation. “Our team really got into the task and we had intense discussions.”
Challenge. When you’ve discussed thirty things, boil it down to the top three. Nobody wants to hear the whole conversation.
Result. What are your solutions? suggestions? What is the result? Strive for brevity again. Give no more than three.
Wrap up. That’s the so-and-so. Make sure you repackage what you just said for your audience.
Joke. Take a moment to relax and reach out to the leader or host or whoever you trust. “Thank you again guys, it was a great session.” This helps you and everyone else feel great at the end.
Remember, it’s about progress, not perfection.
This focused approach will help you create concrete stepping stones to step through the void of an anxious brain. Finally, and most important of all, as I reminded my wonderful client, celebrate every little success as you follow these steps.
https://www.independent.ie/business/back-to-basics-skills-to-get-you-to-overcome-impromptu-speaking-anxiety-42068363.html Back to basics: skills to help you overcome spontaneous speaking anxiety