Presenting: there’s no need to be afraid

no fear words written by hand on a transparent board

9 Mantras to build your confidence and deliver great presentations 

I had a great time with one of my groups this week delivering Presentation Skills. It’s one of my favourite courses and I wanted to share some thoughts on how to build your confidence in this arena using  ‘mantras’ to get rid of the self-limiting beliefs holding you back, mantras to boost your resources and present with confidence.

Many people who come to my course are there to address a common concern: they want to be more confident and less afraid of presenting. With my recent group I asked everyone to stand on an imaginary line to represent their degree of discomfort, using a scale from 1 -10, with 1 being “completely comfortable” to 10 being “terrified “.

Would you believe that the lowest score we had in a group of 13 highly capable and qualified people was a 5?  Many were 8s, 9s…. 10s!  This is quite common and I’ve spent the last few years analysing this and helping people overcome it.

Technology and tools to aid our presentations, in my view, have made it harder to address these fears and easier to cop out.   A phrase I often use is It’s not about PowerPoint.  Many presenters mistakenly think PowerPoint slides are the presentation and opt for hiding behind the show rather than being on show.  It’s not about PowerPoint because people have asked you to present to people for a reason.   And it’s not to read bullet points to them from a slide deck.

The presentation is your chance to to engage and commit the audience to do/say/think differently after you have finished with them.  You simply can’t do that if your are paralysed by fear and even the slightest dip in confidence will diminish your impact.

So what can you do about it?

Quite simply you start by deleting all the negative thoughts that contribute to our worst fears and replace them with better thoughts, ones that show these fears to be false.  These ‘mantras’, if you repeat them often enough, make it easier when you present.

Fear: “I’m no good at presenting, it will be awful”

Replace with Mantras about your ability:

  1. Everyone can deliver a good presentation and that includes me
  2. Successful presentations are built on good planning and preparation
  3. If you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right… so I think I can! 

Everyone can present well. Some of us will be good and some of us will be TED class speakers .  If we plan and  structure it well we can all deliver a well received presentation. Have faith in your own expertise and remember someone has asked you to present for a reason, it isn’t a random event and they think you can do it too.  Believing you can do it is much less stressful than believing you can’t.

Fear : “I know the audience is going to think I’m …..”

Replace with Mantras about the audience:

  1. The audience wants me to succeed
  2. I always know more than the audience does*
  3. The audience is there to see/hear what I have to say

By all means research on your audience, this is good practice. However, trying to guess what’s in their heads before you start is wholly destructive.  You will know how uncomfortable it can be as an audience member to watch a poor presenter and your audience is no different.  They want you to succeed in giving them a good time.

*People often cite examples of presenting to more senior or more qualified people as a counter argument to this second mantra.  I repeat, someone has asked you to present, so the key here is in surprising your audience.  They don’t know what you are going to do or say or show them, so you will always be able to find something new and interesting to make them think.  In the context of your presentation, you always know more than they do.  Audiences are generally much more forgiving than you expect them to be.

Fear: “I always let nerves get the better of me”

Replace with Mantras about “nerves”:

  1. Nerves are my friend not my enemy
  2. There is a positive intention behind my nerves
  3. My nerves are really just excitement – I’m excited not nervous

Nerves are natural. If you don’t have any nerves you may have cause for concern.  Nerves are just a part of you, sending out a helpful warning signal that says “be careful – something lies ahead”.  If you think about it, the physical response you get: butterflies, feeling slightly nauseous, are the same as when we feel excited about something.  Just think about your first love, offer accepted on the dream home, landing that new job or contract. How did you feel?  Where did you feel it?

Instead of thinking “nervous” think “excited” it works for me and I know the best presentations I’ve given have been to the biggest audiences (in the 100s) when I channeled nerves into excitement.  I knew my stuff.  I had rehearsed.  I had tested the visual aids and the equipment.  As all the people filed in, I chose to be excited rather than nervous.

A final tip on this is to talk to the nagging voice in your head , this sounds daft but engaging with it is highly effective. So if you hear the voice saying “I’m going to mess this up” or “I’ll lose the place and forget my words” simply say to that part “Thank you for your concern but I’m fine, now kindly **** off!”.   It works.

The more you present, the less you will fear presenting and I hope the 9 Mantras of Presenting accelerate that process for you.  Let me know.


No Guru provide training on presentation skills; “It’s Not About Power Point”  – how to design and how to deliver great presentations.  Contact us for more information.


Posted by John Drysdale
10th March 2016
John's Blog


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