searchliht imageEven the most experienced managers can be paralysed by nerves.    I see it almost every time I run a course and I know that, with the help and support of a good coach and fellow students this  fear can be overcome.  There are lots of techniques to help including;

  • Deep breathing
  • Visualisation
  • Holding a little saliva in your mouth
  • Acting as if…

The problem is that most of these only provide symptomatic relief.     In order to get to the root of the problem once and for all we have to explore what causes the fear to build and grow.    I notice that all nervous presenters have at least one thing in common (apart form their fear that is!).    They all can vividly describe the symptoms of their fear and how it develops.   For some it’s flushing spreading up from the chest to the face, for others it’s a dry mouth and so on.   Interestingly I and the other observers can see little or no outward signs of these apparently huge and uncontrollable symptoms.

I believe that this ability to describe the symptoms that are almost always invisible to the audience holds the key to the problem.   In order to be able to give these vivid descriptions, the sufferer must be paying exquisite attention to their own internal feelings and physiology.  And of course, the more we pay attention to something, the bigger and scarier it seems to get.    I’m sure you can remember being awoken in the night by a strange noise in your house.   The more you listen for it, the more your mind paints a picture of scary burglars armed to the teeth and determined to hurt yo and your loved ones.  Of curse, if you do manage to pluck up the courage to get up and investigate, you inevitably discover that it was just a creaky pipe or an open window banging.  Energy flows where attention goes. 

So, if that’s the problem, what is the solution?

You have probably worked it out for yourself already.  You need to start paying exquisite attention to something else, and, in the case of a presentation, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that the audience is the place to go.   When you start paying attention to them, you stop paying attention to yourself and the nerves start to dissipate.


  1. Lisa Braithwaite on 12/02/2008 at 02:32

    Gavin, this is so true. I wrote an article about the power of the mind last year that touched on this issue of focusing on “symptoms” to the point where you are actually creating them:

    If the mind is powerful enough to create these symptoms just by focusing on them (or even focusing on the POSSIBILITY of them), then the mind is also powerful enough to reframe those thoughts.

  2. Jo Jameson on 09/02/2008 at 15:26

    A really simple tip I was given when I started out as a speaker was to focus on something monotonous and outside of myself – counting coffee cups, or pairs of shoes with laces, blue colored ties or numbers of wedding rings – anything that you have to focus on to do (small or numerous things are best) and will really absorb your attention.

Leave a Comment