11 Nov Be a better version of yourself in meetings and when presenting
Does giving presentations make you mildly uncomfortable, very uncomfortable or even worse? You’re not alone.
Perhaps one or two of these anecdotes strike a cord: “I get all blotchy”, “I can’t catch my breath”, “I stumble and forget my words”, “I rush through it”, “my legs and my arms shake”, “sweat pours off me”, “my heart beats, as if it going come out of my chest”, “I want to fake an illness and run away”, “my inner voice is chatting loudly to me, saying things like ‘I’m no good'”, “I’m useless” and so on.
The good news is, whatever your symptoms, they can all be improved and so can your overall performance.
Here’s an example of a how a tweak to a person’s thinking can have amazing results. I’ve been working with a client recently who wanted to have greater presence in senior client meetings and give more authoritative and polished presentations.
In everyday meetings he was fine. He was relaxed and performed with confidence. However when in meetings with senior clients there was a significant change. He’d become anxious, less confident and tended to withdraw from conversation fearing that he would make mistakes and look foolish if he put himself forward.
With presentations, although he gave them frequently, he found that his performance would diminish if faced with senior clients. Feeling incredibly uncomfortable he would rush through his presentation knowing full well that he was not doing himself justice.
It’s widely understood that it’s the beliefs that we hold and thoughts that we have that give rise to our emotions and lead on to how we act and behave. So the approach we decided to take was to find out what was going on in his mind during those moments. It took a while but eventually we discovered that he held an underlying belief of “I need to be right all the time so that I prove myself”. We analysed the belief for a while in terms of how it was serving and not serving him and it dawned on him that the negatives, of holding such a belief, seriously out weighed the positives that it gave him. Enthusiastically, we discussed what a more helpful belief might look like. There was almost an audible “thunk” as he said “I need to be right most of the time so that I prove myself”. His eyes were shining. He had realised that he had been operating with an unrealistic expectation of himself and when the pressure to perform, in senior client meetings arose, he was being kept hostage by his own mind. Instinctively, he could now see how his new mindset of being ‘right most of the time so that I prove myself’ was more realistic and would free him up to perform as he wanted to.
And it was the same old thinking that had been causing him to rush through his presentation in the hope that he couldn’t be challenged and would therefore be, in his own mind, ‘right’ – a self-fulfilling prophecy. His new mindset of being ‘right most of the time’ releases the pressure on himself. He could now view his presentations as ‘the start of a conversation’ rather than him preaching (very quickly). He felt much more relaxed about taking questions. In fact part of his strategy going forward, to support him in slowing down, was to actively invite questions.
Some weeks later when we met up again, he reported that he now feels significantly more confident and authoritative as presenter and his confidence and presence in ‘big’ meetings is remarkably better.
It still amazes me that such a seemingly small alteration to the way we think can have a such a profoundly positive affect on the way we feel, act and perform.