Occasionally, I coach people on presentation skills. I know that a lot of people have a fear of speaking in public, in fact, it’s the biggest fear in the world, and NLP has some great tools to help with the fear AND the presentation strategy, set-up and delivery. What I find most people fear is the outcome. They will practice their presentation until they’ve memorized every word and every slide. Then, when it comes time to deliver their amazing speech, the only thing in their mind is the audience’s reaction, “Will they like it?” “What will they think?” “Will they laugh at my joke?” “Will they even know it’s a joke?” “Are my images too bright?” “Are my fonts big enough?” When we focus on the outcome, we lose our ability to do the task.
When we focus on the outcome we start playing the “what if” game and place ourselves in the future creating all sorts of anxiety. The pressure builds up as we weigh on the possibilities of what can go wrong. It’s natural. Our brains love to come up with negative stuff. It a self-preservation system. The only problem is – most of the time – it’s completely out of control! We create a sense of overwhelm when we are focused on the outcome of our performance rather than the task of just doing it. And this is where the fear comes from – feelings of anxiety, pressure and overwhelm. No wonder so many people hate giving presentations.
For my coaching clients, I have them focus on the task at hand. Where does the laptop go? Do you need a sound connection? Where can you stand and not stand in the room? Where in the presentation do you slow down? Where do you speed up? I focus on the mechanics of the presentation because if someone is doing this – then they are present in their presentation. They aren’t in the future creating all sorts of things that could go wrong. They are just focused on the next task on the list.
This applies to all sorts of fields, not just presentation skills. When a chef creates your meal in a restaurant, do you want him more focused on what you’ll think of it or do you want him focused on actually cooking it? Where should his mind be? Or what about the airplane pilot for your next holiday? Do you want her thinking of your opinion of the inflight movie system and whether you’ll fly again or do you want her focused on the safety checklist and flying the plane? Where should her mind be?
For your future success, focus on the task rather than the outcome.