Nothing Bad Is Going to Happen

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Thanks to a training session, I recently found myself on the other side of the public-speaking coin: in the audience. As I watched Japanese salespeople give presentations in English, I observed various levels of pre-presentation anxiety. Despite that fact, each presenter made successful speeches. Nothing went wrong.

This made me think back to that one piece of advice that I am most adamant about: to give better presentations, just do them—over, and over, and over again. Today I realized one of the specific reasons why this advice holds so true: humans fear the unknown.

As we begin our public speaking careers, our vivid imaginations create a fear that everything that can go wrong will go wrong in our presentations. And why shouldn’t we? We are literally wired to do so. Our brains have nothing to reference when it comes to the act of presenting. Fear of unfamiliar things has been crucial for human survival and evolution (albeit not the best thing for innovation).

As we gain more experience, however, we gradually start to realize that the vast majority of our presentations go smoothly. In fact, many of them are downright enjoyable. Things do go wrong from time to time, but then we realize another critical fact—most mistakes don’t derail our presentations and we usually overcome them without incident.

In other words, as we practice, our frame of mind shifts. The image of freezing up in front of a crowd gradually melts away and is replaced by visions of success and enjoyment. This shift, however, can never be realized until we get out there and condition our thoughts for success.

So, if I didn’t convince you before, consider this post, and go out there and start presenting!

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