Observe, Accept, and Reframe
First, recognize that feeling anxious or being nervous before a big presentation is normal. The human fight-or-flight response kicks in, attempting to ward off the threat. But instead of running or fighting, which just creates more resistance and angst, simply observe those instincts and get comfortable with the idea that discomfort is part of the game.
Consider Bill Russell, a five-time winner of the NBA’s most valuable player award and a 12-time all-star who is often credited for leading the Celtics to 11 NBA championships. Before games, Russell was often so nervous that he threw up. But he didn’t let his nerves get in the way of his performance on the court. Like Russell, we can recognize that nerves are part of our process, and rather than beat ourselves up about it, we can go out and perform at a championship level.
Beth Levine, author of a book on leadership lessons from the sports world and founder of SmartMouth Communications, has worked with professional athletes as well as leaders in organizations on presentations and media training. Over the course of a 30-year career in PR, corporate communications, and coaching, Levine says, “almost everyone I’ve worked with has some version of feeling nervous before big presentations. It’s the rare person who doesn’t get nervous. Therefore, it’s best to embrace nervousness rather than resist it or push it away.”
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