When I’m nervous before I speak or give a presentation, I listen to my self-talk. What words are echoing through my mind on a loop? What am I saying to myself, and how is it going to affect me?
What I usually hear is:
Why did I say yes to this?
I’m probably going to blow it.
This will be the time I can’t do it.
I can’t wait to get this over with.
This has happened to me enough times that I know what’s happening. I know that my fear has narrowed my focus so that’s it’s a tiny spotlight, focusing right on me and my worry.
So I widen the spotlight. Instead of illuminating me, anxious and alone on stage, it grows to include the first and second and third rows of the audience. I imagine them, looking back at me with curious faces, interested in what I may say.
I widen the light again, including the next rows, then the next. The seats are filled with people—not a faceless mass, but real people who have chosen to include this experience in their day. They could be anywhere, and they’re here. They believe I have something to offer.
I listen to the voice in my head again:
How can I serve these people best?
It’s so cool that they are interested in how to become more effective communicators and leaders. I wonder what part of my talk will be most powerful for them?
I’m so grateful.
I’m excited! Let’s do this thing!
The relentless, harsh focus on ourselves will always turn up something we could have done better, an area where we’re lacking, and that leads to fear. Remembering that we’re here to connect with others with generosity suddenly turns the temperature down. They’re people, and they want to get something of value from my talk. That’s it.