I used to be a worrier.
Not quite at the Master's level, but certainly qualified for Advanced Degree status.
If there was an important event in the near future, I would begin worrying about my ability to succeed from the moment it was written on the calendar.
Within days I would be obsessed with worry:
- will I embarrass myself by telling a joke wrong?
- will I offend someone by not hearing what they said?
- will I forget my lines and skip important details?
- what if I'm late?
- what if I mess up?
And then the event would happen. I would be so nervous and anxious about it that many times I would be sick in the bathroom.
And pretty much everything I worried about would happen.
Because I spent the time worrying instead of preparing.
Until a friend pointed out that my lack of confidence was causing my anxiety.
And that I could gain confidence by directing the energy put into worrying toward preparing for an event.
And that's when I began to learn how to prepare.
Preparation Builds Confidence
Preparation includes practice. Yes, your piano teacher was right: practice does make perfect.
On my calendar, today, are two events where I am billed as an expert speaker. I know the subjects well, but honestly, if I don't practice and review I will be a hot mess a week or so before each event. I will dive back into the worry and obsession of messing up.
So, I prepare by practicing.
One event is about three weeks away. I am presenting a workshop to a group of professionals. It's a workshop I've been giving since 2009 and I know it well. But that doesn't mean I don't prepare.
- I've reviewed the material
- I made a few changes to keep it current
- I've read it out loud
- I've walked through it in my office as if I were presenting to the audience
- I have a date with a friend to walk through it at their office a week before the event
My anxiety about the event has been reduced to a miniscule amount. My insecurity is gone because I know the material. Just before I go on stage I will follow my routine of prayer, deep breathing and visualization of success.
The second event is about six weeks away. It's a big event with other speakers and presenters, an all day affair for business owners. Just yesterday I was told the topic I am to present. It's time to get to work creating the presentation then practicing.
- I will do a bit of research, including a coffee interview.
- I will zero in on the One Thing the audience should learn.
- I will write about the One Thing, as much as I know about it from experience and from research.
- I will condense the One Thing into a story that will illustrate it for the audience.
- I will create a final presentation that brings in the One Thing as a story, an outline for action and what the audience can expect in terms of results.
Another way I prepare myself is through continuous training. An example of that is below – the Top Producer Formula. It's a series of video and audio that helps to set my mind to be the best I can be. It doesn't have a thing to do with “how to give a great presentation”, but what I learn and hear is how to be the best I can be … at anything I do.
A bit of nervousness is normal for me now. It's manageable.
Now it doesn't matter if I'm attending a face-to-face networking event, a gala dinner, speaking at a national conference, or training a group of professionals – as long as I prepare myself I have won half the battle.
What about you?
Have you conquered the worry?