I can’t help with fear of death, or apocalypse, or zombies. But the fear many of us experience when we have a high-stakes presentation or meeting coming up? I have a suggestion.
Most of us can describe an interpersonal situation we don’t want to be in. The three situations we hear about most often from clients are: 1) Giving a speech or presentation to a lot of people 2) Having to give tough feedback or fire someone, and 3) Needing to answer questions when we’re not sure what’s going to be asked.
In all three circumstances, we tend to turn inwards. We feel discomfort or anxiety just thinking about the situation, and we start to imagine the worst case scenario. “I’ll forget what I want to say.” “They’ll be really upset.” “I’ll look like an idiot when I can’t answer their questions.”
Instead, think about the person or people you’ll be addressing. What outcome do you want to create for them? If you’re preparing a speech, what do you want the people thinking or talking about as they leave? Imagine them talking to each other when it’s over.
If you have to have a hard conversation, think about how you want that person to feel. Supported? Informed? Ready for the next steps?
If you know you’ll have to speak impromptu or answer questions, focus on the impression you want to leave rather than what you might not know. Do you want the audience to experience you as thoughtful, confident, at ease, capable?
Taking the focus off of how you feel (nervous, anxious), and turning it towards how you want to make other people feel is like a magic wand. The simple act of thinking about others turns the coming ordeal into an achievable task.
When in doubt, stop thinking about yourself. How can you prepare in a way that makes this time valuable for others?