Aristotle once wrote: "The least deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousandfold." When it comes to presenting to an audience, he's right - you never want to lie to your listeners. Where I beg to differ with one of the greatest philosophers of all time is that when it comes to managing your anxiety, telling yourself a little white lie might not only be in order, but be necessary to get you over the fear, terror and horror that comes with standing up in front of a room, feeling alone, exposed and judged.
So, speaking of feeling alone, exposed and judged, how does the fear of public speaking show up for you? Do you experience:
• Shortness of breath?
• Sweaty palms?
• Pounding chest?
• Racing mind?
• Shrinking bladder?
Now think about the physiological responses you'd experience if you just found out that you won the lottery. Chances are, it would look a lot like this list above. In fact, it would likely look identical to the list above. Why? Because the physiological responses of "fear" and "excitement" are the same from your body's point of view. It's the same rush of adrenaline, flooding your body.
But if fear and excitement don't differ in your body, where do they differ?
In your head. That's right: the situation you're in picks the label, FEAR or EXCITEMENT.
• Winning a trip in a raffle? EXCITEMENT
• Spotting a bear having a snack in your tent? FEAR
• Going on the new upside-down roller coaster at your local amusement park?
• EXCITEMENT (if you're my teenage son Jacob); FEAR (if you're me)
• Landing that big promotion? YOU DECIDE!
So, what if you told yourself a little white lie that the physical symptoms you're feeling when you get to the microphone are because you are SO EXCITED to give this presentation? Tell yourself that you're THRILLED to share this valuable information with the people who really need it and you're HONORED that you were entrusted with this opportunity by your peers and higher-ups, especially because you're so PASSIONATE about your topic, your company, the product, the approach, the possibilities, etc. You're DELIGHTED to be there, and you can't help but show it!
After all, if you're going to be emoting something to your audience anyway, wouldn't it be more effective to make what you're emoting be power and positive rather than wracked with pain and fear?
If you can identify one thing that you're genuinely excited about (and I guess "excited that this presentation will soon be over" counts), put that in the front of your mind, and present with a smile. Your listeners will appreciate it and you just might come to believe it, too.