You have practiced out loud. You feel confident. You know the subject. You have answered the questions you may be asked. But you are still uneasy. Often you feel good before a presentation but part way through, you lose confidence and just want to get it over with and sit down.
Sometimes I see this phenomenon with the people I coach. I watch them closely and then ask, “Do you have a voice that is critiquing everything you are saying and telling you that what you just said is not exactly correct?” The presenter looks surprised and responds, “Yes.” Then I say, “This is what I like to call the overworked helper.”
I go on to explain that this voice feels it is helping. But, when you are in front of a group of people, it is only making it more difficult for you to relax and connect to your audience. The voice was essential during your practice, but when you are doing the talk for real, it must take a back-row seat and stop talking. You need a different voice that says, “Yes, you are doing wonderful. Yes, that was a good point you made.” Or more ideally, you need to still all inner voices and just have quiet inside.
Voices in your head? What is she talking about? Many of you reading this will know exactly what I mean. In a wonderful book called Introduction to the Internal Family Systems Model, author Robert Swartz explains, “The point is that we have ongoing, complex relationships with many different inner voices, thought patterns, and emotions that are similar to relationships we have with people.” I see these voices in action as I watch people present.
Start to pay attention to your inner voices when you talk in front of a group of people. Are you hearing from the “overworked helper” or the “constant judge”? Neither one is good to have activated when you are speaking. Amazingly enough, when I have suggested to presenters that they simply ask their disruptive inner voice to pipe down, to stop judging and making sarcastic comments, the voice does calm down.
Let me add one caveat. If you have not practiced out loud and if you are unprepared, I doubt this voice will calm down. It knows you have not done the necessary preparation and is actually trying to help you. But during the actual talk is not the time for it to start coaching you with incessant criticism.
So do yourself and your nerves a favor. Check in with this voice several days before a talk and find out what it has to say. Just ask, “Are you satisfied? Have I prepared well enough? What else should I do?” You may be amazed that it will answer you. Do what it suggests and you will discover that you can be calm, energized, and confident when speaking. You owe that to yourself – and to your inner critic.
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See Also: Claudyne Wilder on Indezine