Present Tense? How to deal with presentation nerves

Calendar IconOctober 10, 2018 Author Iconinhouse

Present Tense?

As a doctor you will be required to deliver lots of presentations throughout your career. From case studies, to teaching junior colleagues to presenting at international symposia.

Does the thought of presenting or public speaking bring you out in a cold sweat? Is it the stuff of nightmares as far as you are concerned? Fear not, you are not alone. Regular surveys of people’s top fears often cite presenting and public speaking as their number one fear. Numbers 2 and 3 are usually death and spiders!


It all starts in your mind.

It is widely understood that our thoughts have a huge impact on our feelings and our
feelings have a huge impact on our actions. Imagine the following scenario. Your consultant calls
you in to their office and informs you that 1 week from now, you will be delivering a
presentation to the all of the top experts in your field.
What might your thoughts be at this stage?
• Oh no!
• Why me?
• I hate presenting!
• This is going to be awful!
• I’ll screw it up!
• They’ll laugh at me!

With these thoughts in mind, how are you likely to be feeling?

• Tense
• Nervous
• Anxious
• Stressed
• Unhappy
• Resentful (of your boss for putting you in this situation)

With the these thoughts and feelings running through you as the days count down to the
presentation you may experience sleepless nights, a loss of appetite. You may also not be
the nicest person to be around for your colleagues, friends and family.
After days of thinking and feeling like this, what is your presentation likely to be like? There
is a good chance it is not going to go well!
And what happens the next time you have to present, if this presentation does not go well?
There’s a good chance you will go through all the same thoughts and feelings, only this time
they will be compounded and magnified by the bad presentation you delivered previously.

Now imagine the same scenario, but this time your thought process is very different. It goes
something like this:

• What a great opportunity to shine!
• My boss must have a lot of confidence in me.
• I can demonstrate to the directors and senior management how good I am.
• I will need to practice.
• I’ll get my boss and a few other people to watch me present and get their feedback.

With the thoughts like this you are likely to feel energised and enthusiastic. Friends and
colleagues may notice the invigorated new version of you. As you practice and get more
feedback, your confidence will improve until eventually the day arrives and you deliver a
great presentation to rapturous applause!
Not long after, your boss asks you to present again. Motivated by the great experience you
had last time, you look forward to the next presentation. And the next. And the next. And so

So the same situation, being asked to present, can lead to 2 very different outcomes, based
on the way we think, feel, and ultimately act. Which outcome would you like to have?

So here are our top tips for dealing with presentation nerves and delivering great presentations every time.

1. Create a confidence anchor

Anchoring is an extremely powerful technique used by NLP practitioners and their clients all over the planet. You can create anchors for all sorts of things such as confidence, happiness, relaxation, and so on. In this case we are going to create an anchor for confidence.

The basic definition of an anchor is any external stimulus that produces an internal response. You already have several anchors that you may not be aware of. For example, is there a person in your life that, when you think of them, you feel happy? It might be a spouse or partner, maybe a child or good friend. The simple thought of that person creates an internal feeling of happiness. Without realising it,
you have anchored feelings of happiness to that person. We are going to create an anchor that will allow you to feel confident whenever and wherever you need to.

Firstly, think about a time when you felt really confident in the past. Go inside your head and start to recall everything about that occasion. As well as the confidence you feel, what other feelings are associated with the situation? Happiness? Pride? Contentment? As well as the feelings associated with that occasion, what can you recall seeing? Were you smiling? Were other people smiling at you, looking happy and pleased for you? Was there a certificate involved or maybe a bottle of champagne? And what were you hearing? Perhaps other people were congratulating you, clapping and cheering? Was there any music playing at that time? Finally can you recall any tastes or smells that you associate with this occasion? If you were drinking champagne, how did it taste? Maybe you were celebrating in restaurant,
what could you taste? As you recall this occasion, capture your feelings, the sights and sounds, tastes and smells. Now take those feelings, sights, sounds, tastes, and smells and start to amplify them. Make the feelings stronger, the images more colourful and vivid, make the sounds louder and clearer, makes the tastes and the smells stronger to the point where you actually being to salivate. Keep amplifying everything, turn it up and turn it up again, until everything is as strong, loud, crisp and clear as you can possibly make it. When you decide that you have amplified everything as much as you possibly can, then simply pinch your thumb and forefinger together.Pinching your thumb and forefinger together creates an anchor that you can use to feel confident whenever you need to. Try pinching your thumb and forefinger
together again right now. What happens? All of those feelings, sights, sound, tastes and smells come flooding back, and you should feel extremely confident.

Now think about a situation in the future when you have to present or speak in
public again. As you think about it, trigger your anchor by pinching your thumb and
forefinger together. You should now be able to see yourself in the future, feeling
extremely confident as you deliver an awesome presentation!

2. Embrace your nerves.

All great presenters get nervous before every presentation. Even if it’s a presentation
or a speech that they have delivered many times. Getting nervous is a good sign. It
shows that you care about the quality of your presentation. When I train and coach
people on their presentation skills, I am more worried about people who say they
don’t get nervous. This means that they either don’t care or they have become too
blasé. There is a quote that I love. It goes like this.
“You can never get rid of the butterflies, but you can get them all flying in the same
So accept that you will get nervous. Every great presenter does. Once you accept
that nerves are natural part of presenting, then you can start to use that adrenaline
and make it work for you, rather than against you.

3. Create you own Haka!

If you have ever seen the All Blacks at the start of a rugby game, you will be familiar
with their tribal war dance. What you may not realise is that there is more to this
than just an attempt to intimidate the opposition. The haka also has a profound
physiological effect on the players as they perform it. Research has demonstrated
that such posing leads to a drop in the hormone cortisol (a stress hormone) and a
rise in testosterone, which is a hormone that is very much associated with our fight
or flight mechanism. In our case we are about to stand our ground and fight as we
deliver a great presentation. Amy Cuddy is an American psychologist who has
studied and refined the art of “power posing” in which she gets individuals to go
through a series of poses as part of their presentation preparation. The results are
quite remarkable. Individuals using power posing prior to delivering a presentation
feel much more fired up and much less nervous.
O.K. So you may not be able to stand there in the middle of the boardroom and
literally perform a haka, but you should be able to find a private space where you
can psyche yourself up. A toilet cubicle will suffice! Make yourself larger than life.
Literally pump yourself up and get ready to deliver a brilliant presentation!

4. Practise, practise and practise once again.

There is no substitute for practise. You should practise until you are very
comfortable with your presentation. Ideally you will practise to the point where you
will know the running order of your slides (if you are using them) and also what is on
each slide so that you can refer to it, without having to look at the slide. As you
practise, get feedback from colleagues, friends, and family. Video yourself using your
mobile phone or tablet. As you watch yourself, pay attention not only to what you
are saying, but how you are saying. Does your body language appear confident? Do
your facial expressions appear relaxed? Are you making good eye contact with your
audience (as opposed to constantly looking back at the projector screen or the
Remember “Amateurs practise until they get it right. Professionals practise until they
can’t get it wrong!”

For more information on how we can help you with your presentation skills, simply fill in the form below and we will get back to you within 24 hours.

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