FOCUS: Knowing the Real Task

February 14th, 2011

I had a potential client, last week, whose primary concern was dealing with the nervousness undermining her credibility and impact in meetings. She discovered voice training has the unexpected benefit of giving her a constructive focus, an alternative to focusing on how miserable she felt.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking the presentation is about you. Yes, you may be at the front of the room. You may be the only one speaking. You may indeed be the center of attention, but ultimately it’s not about you. It’s about your audience. They have to get the message, or the whole exercise is a waste of time. Acute nervousness is a sign you’re focused on the wrong thing, yourself, instead of getting your message to those listeners. The more you focus on your discomfort, the less attention you have to devote to your listeners. If you become preoccupied with your nervousness, you become disconnected from the conversation. That will begin a downward spiral of self-consciousness that really could cripple your speech.

In addition, when you notice symptoms of nervousness, it’s easy to feel you’re doing a bad job. That’s a trap. A pounding heart is just a pounding heart. Shaky knees are just shaky knees. Not a sign from the gods that you’re going to fail. Let the symptoms of nervousness, your pounding heart, your shaky knees, remind you that you have an important job to do: get this message to those people. Your audience needs you. Cultivate the ability to care for your listeners and maintain a fierce focus on your task as the messenger. Nervousness and anxiety will fade into the background and perhaps disappear altogether.

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