"CONQUER PRESENTATION ANXIETY:
OLYMPIC ATHLETES SHOW US HOW"
By Roberta Prescott
Whether going for the gold or giving
a presentation, the beast
of performance anxiety rears its ugly head. Your hands are clammy, your
knees wobbly and your heart is pounding. You’ve developed a shortness
of breath and your breakfast is staging an uprising. The pressure
is on, and you want to succeed and perform at the top of your game.
Olympic Athletes do three things to build their confidence and tame
the beast. They are mentally tough; they concentrate so
deeply that they go “into the zone”; and they visualize
BE MENTALLY TOUGH
It’s all in your attitude. Olympic Athletes don’t
feel helpless. They are proactive and are determined to succeed. Your
drive to be mentally tough should include the following:
- Accept the tension. It happens to everyone, and you need
it so that you can be “up” for your presentation.
- Cultivate courage. Courage doesn’t mean the absence
of fear. It means fighting past it and taking action. Trust
yourself – you know more than you think.
- Prepare a good game plan.
- What’s your goal? What do you want from this presentation?
- Do your homework. What’s expected of you?
- Anticipate the moves of the “competition”. What “sweat
questions” might you have to answer? Practice your
Rehearse so that you are performance ready. When
you are well rehearsed your mind will be in complete control, you
will effortlessly know what you will say next and your movements
will be relaxed and flowing.
Olympic Athletes are inundated with external distractions -- from
the roar of the crowd and performances in other parts of the gym,
to the pounding of feet and other runners breathing down their neck.
You also need to tune out distractions – from servers
clearing dishes during an after dinner speech or a too loud presentation
in the room next door, to your audience answering e-mails or talking
to each other during a small group briefing.
How do you get into the “zone” where you are focused
so deeply that distractions can’t disturb you?
- By controlled breathing. Oxygen provides the fuel
for your voice, and is the source of your energy. At the
same time it calms you down and helps you to concentrate. While
waiting your turn to speak take several calming deep slow breaths.
- By memorizing the first minute of your presentation so that you
are on automatic pilot during the most dangerous time of your presentation.
Just before you begin, take a deep breath the way Olympic
Athletes do before the gun goes off.
Don’t set yourself up for failure by falling prey to negative “what
- “What if I forget what I want to say?”
- “What if I can’t answer all the questions?”
- “What if I let (myself / my boss / my department) down?”
- “What if I make a mistake?”
- “What if I don’t meet expectations?”
Instead visualize your success. Just as a diver can visualize
climbing up the ladder, stepping to the edge of the platform, launching
into the air, twisting perfectly and entering the water without a
splash, you can visualize yourself doing well.
- Picture yourself presenting with a clear voice, appropriate gestures
and pauses and great eye contact.
- Picture yourself speaking fluently and without hesitation, and
answering questions precisely.
- Picture yourself changing your visuals without looking back at
- Picture yourself using smooth transitions from one page of your
handout to the next.
- Picture the smiles in your audience after you complete a smooth
Develop an “I’ll do well” mantra. e.g., “My
breathing is steady and deep. I am confident. I am
You have the knowledge and physical skills to give an excellent
performance. Use these three points from those who have spent
years working toward the gold.
As with top athletes, dedication is supplemented by excellent coaching. We
at The Prescott Group are professional performance coaches. We
can help you find your own rewards, and achieve the accolades you
The Prescott Group