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Home » Business Presentation Skills Training, Nerve Center, presentation skills training, Public Speaking Workshops

Doggone Nervousness

547423My dog, Indy, has taught me more about handling nervousness than all the corporate executives I have worked with in the last 30 years. Indy and I compete in dog agility. Perhaps you have seen it on tv – the dogs race through an obstacle course of jumps, tunnels, see-saw, weave poles, etc. At least once or twice a month you can find us at a local, regional or national competition. Indy is extremely talented, but quirky. If he detects the least amount of nervousness on my part, he will not perform to his full potential. There’s the challenge: in a presentation we can “fake” confidence and a calm demeanor, but a dog will sense any type of nervousness. I had to learn to handle my nerves completely, from the inside out.

The same techniques I use in agility competitions can be used in presentation settings:

1. Deep breathing. When you are tense, your breathing is strained. You can feel a tense jaw and clamped teeth. Get into a deep breathing mode as soon as you get up in the morning. Inhale through your nose for a slow count of eight, and imagine that the air is going to the top of your head. Then exhale through your mouth for a slow count of eight, and feel the air going down to your toes. Keep that pattern going all day – right up to presentation time.

2. Imagine the familiar. Instead of obsessing over the importance of the competition, I imagine that Indy and I are just having a blast as we practice in my yard. The last thought that enters my mind as we step out onto the course is, “It’s just me and you Indy, at home, having a good time”. That keeps me centered and relaxed. The same thing will work for presentations. Instead of thinking, “Oh no, here I am giving a very important presentation in front of 50 people”, think “No problem, I’m just having a chat with a group of people hanging out in my office.” Imagine the familiar and it will help your confidence in your next presentation. It’s not a big deal.

And what about Indy, my quirky dog? He is on his way to a major national title. Maybe he’ll even be good enough to be on tv someday. Look for us – I’m the one not wearing the spandex!

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