By Justine Marriott.  29/03/2016

There’s an actors nightmare that usually precedes the opening night of a show.  Rehearsals are done, the audience is waiting and the air is heavy with anticipation. The show music starts, the house lights go down and all eyes turn centre stage to you. You open your mouth to speak and suddenly you have no idea what to say. Not only do you not know what to say, you’ve got no idea how you got there, what you’re doing or what play you’re in. There is nothing but a sea of expectant faces looking in your direction and everything seems to go into slow motion.  The silence stretches into eternity.

Ever had that feeling before or during a presentation?  Relax, you’re not alone.

As a professional actor I’ve performed in front of thousands of people over the years, and as a trainer I work regularly with varied groups of professionals on presentation and communication skills.  I don’t claim to know everything but there’s one thing I know for sure – irrespective of age, job role or status, I’ve never met anyone who has never felt scared in front of an audience.

The good news is we are all human and it’s perfectly normal to feel anxiety.  The best presenters in the world get nervous and we are hard wired to react to certain situations with fear.  The ancient parts of our caveman brain that are really good at sensing danger and assessing who is a friend or foe, are not always so helpful when it comes to presentations and public speaking.

Let’s think about it reasonably.  You are in front of a group of people because you have something important to say, your audience are not going to throw rocks at you and who is this really all about?

The wonderful truth is that our success as a presenter or speaker is not determined by the amount of times we feel nervous or concerned about our performance, it is determined by the way in which we deal with the situation we have in hand.

In the workshops I run, I like to spend plenty of time focusing on the most important presentation skills tool you will ever have – yourself.  Content is important of course, but it should never be at the expense of your connection with yourself and your audience.

So next time you feel the fear in front of a group of people, do as the Beatles suggest and let it be.  Don’t deny, refuse or suppress your fear and reassure yourself that it will come and it will go (probably sooner than expected).  Pause and breathe, be gentle with yourself and remember – life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

Justine Marriott

Justine delivers presentation and communication skills programmes using her extensive experience and her professional acting background! She delivers Keyturn’s ‘Presenting with Impact’ programme which supportively encourages people to take one step at a time – gradually building their confidence to deliver outstanding presentations. To find out more please visit our booking page.