You have a speech or presentation coming up. Naturally, you’ve been thinking about it. The truth is you’ve been kind of obsessing about it, haven’t you? (To help conquer your nervousness and stage fright, download our cheat sheet "How to Calm Your Nerves Before Speaking.")
As the gears have been turning in your head, you’ve begun to imagine all kinds of things that might happen concerning your performance—some of them right out of a Stephen King novel. Fear of public speaking and speech anxiety have a way of doing that.
But why beat up on yourself like this? If you’re going to spend time imagining scenarios for your upcoming presentation, why not make them positive scenarios? Otherwise, you run the risk of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy—putting so much thought into those bad things taking place that some of them virtually have to happen!
The Magic of Positive Visualization
So write yourself a blank check for success rather than failure, by using positive visualization. You’ve probably heard the term before. It's a way of “foreseeing” things going well rather than poorly. Athletes, chess players, and all manner of high-performance individuals visualize beforehand the outcome they want to occur.
So why not public speakers? It's a way to put your imagination to work creating a positive outcome rather than a negative one. I jazz up the concept a little by calling the result a “Command Performance Movie.” It's something I share with nearly all my clients at Public Speaking International. Here’s what it entails and how to go about it:
The Command Performance Movie
This isn’t a movie shot with your camcorder. Instead, it’s a scenario-in-your-own-mind about the success of your upcoming speech or presentation—and just as important, your positive feelings about the result. To keep this idea from occupying the “That’s Nice but I’ll Never Use It” drawer, you should write out the exercise rather than just thinking about it.
Include in your one or two pages your pleasure about speaking at the occasion. Note the way you accomplish all of your objectives as you go through the speech. "See" the audience nodding and paying attention, etc. Also include comments about how everyone seems to perceive you just the way you want them to personally and professionally. And be sure to put in the specific ways in which you feel positive about the experience.
How much detail you include is up to you. The specific items you mention are only limited by your (optimistic) imagination!
Here is a sample Command Performance Movie of my own. Yours will be different, since it will be unique to your situation and goals. Whatever occasion you’ll be speaking at, try to make your imagined scenario as close as possible to the actual details of the upcoming talk.
One other way to help yourself: Begin the “movie” by reminding yourself of the preparation you’ve done beforehand. I haven’t included that below, because that will be unique to your own advance work. But it’s another way to build confidence in your ability to speak expertly on your topic.
My Command Performance Movie
Today, I’m giving the keynote address at the Mega-Movers of the Universe Convention. I’m really looking forward to this occasion. This is an important group, and I’ve prepared extensively to give them something dynamic and interesting.
Earlier this week, I put the finishing touches on my talk. Last night I got a good night’s sleep, and I had a healthy breakfast this morning. I’m feeling good! I’ve also allowed myself plenty of time to get to the venue, so I’m not rushed. And it’s been nice to have a few minutes to meet the people coming into the hotel ballroom and introduce myself. Now I’ll no longer be talking to strangers!
I’m dressed professionally, in style with good quality clothes that aren’t overly flashy. The audience senses that I’m relaxed, confident, and clearly looking forward to giving my talk and sharing ideas with them.
In fact, they can see I’m really enjoying being here with the opportunity to speak. After I’m introduced, I step to the lectern, smile, and nod at the audience. I take a slow relaxed breath, and begin my conversation with my listeners.
I speak clearly and knowledgeably in an easy, confident tone. My voice is lively and engaging. As I make eye contact with audience members, I see that they’re paying attention and looking interested. I stay focused on my message, which I know is coming through loud and clear. I know this material and I’m loving getting it across!
When I finish, everyone smiles and applauds warmly. They’ve clearly enjoyed my speech. As I return to my seat I overhear someone say, “Now that was an interesting presentation!” I know this has been a rewarding experience for them and for me.
Takeaways from this blog:
- Avoid a self-fulfilling prophecy by imagining a bad outcome for your presentation.
- Positive visualization is a tool that will help you "see" your success beforehand.
- Calling it a "Command Performance Movie" just might create a star out of you!
My previous blogs on this topic:
- Don't Give Fear an Opportunity: Overcoming Public Speaking Anxiety
- Public Speaking Fear? — The Key to Speaking with Confidence
- 5-Minute Technique to Calm Your Fear of Public Speaking