Presenting Globally (Refocus Nerves)

Suzanne Enright, president of Kensu Leadership Group, Inc. tells how she channels her nervousness. Her consulting company designs and delivers programs to accelerate the development of global leaders, with a focus on high-potential leaders and their teams in Asia and the U.S.

Suzanne, what are your two best ways to prepare yourself before speaking?

Number 1: I mentally practice. I see myself in the environment being poised and successful and visualize my hand gestures, my smiles and my posture.

Number 2: I practice out loud. When I am overseas in a hotel, I practice in front of a mirror. I want to smile more, so I practice smiling during certain parts of my talk. I know that I first have to master the content. Once I am comfortable with the content, I can smile and generally feel more relaxed.

How do you deal with your nervousness when speaking?

I like to move around a little bit to ease my nervousness – not pace like a caged animal. So I take just a few steps toward the audience, then pause for a while, then move a few steps in another direction. When I move, I feel more relaxed and connected to my audience, and it helps to dissipate my physical nervousness.

What differences should a presenter be aware of when speaking overseas?

Be careful about jokes and humor which vary from place to place. I like to generate humor in my interactions with the audience. Avoid sports metaphors in your presentations. Americans frequently use sports metaphors, particularly using football and baseball, to explain other concepts. However, these particular sports frequently mean nothing to people in other parts of the world.

What do you tell someone who is nervous?

I tell a person that he or she has to consciously practice breathing. Breathe in, hold for a couple of seconds, and then slowly let the breath out. This brings your heart rate down at least a couple beats. Use this technique before you start speaking and during a presentation and you will note how you feel more relaxed and how you are better at pacing your talk.

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