I had the Olympics on the other night and was watching women’s gymnastics like I usually do, with one eye closed. Seeing those tiny bodies fly through the air, twisting and spinning in impossible ways, scares the heck out of me.
But as one of the Americans was preparing to do her vault (I should have been taking notes–I don’t remember her name) the NBC commentator told the audience that you’d never see this gymnast looking nervous because she called it something else. Instead of thinking of what she was feeling as fear, she called it excitement instead. So she was never afraid.
If you can pull it off, renaming your fear as excitement is a great strategy for public speaking. I’m always a little nervous before any talk, but I always try to push those thoughts out of my head and focus on what needs to happen in order for the presentation to take place: getting the equipment set up; making sure I have all of my materials; chatting with people as they enter the room. In the back of my mind I’ve always had the idea that if I think too much about not wanting to give a talk or teach a class, if I even put it into words, I just won’t be able to do it. And so far this has worked for me–I haven’t fled a presentation yet.
But different things work for different people. Try to think about what you can accomplish with your presentation–what a great opportunity it can be–instead of what could go wrong.