"Winning communicators don't strive for perfection, they strive for connection."
Cheers and elation bubbled throughout room after our presentation skills workshop. Five executives from various professions had successfully made stellar leaps in enhancing their communication skills.
One woman, Paula (not her real name), in particular, made transformations before our eyes. At beginning of workshop she seemed to be least likely to make propelling progress. After receiving high marks and praise from her fellow classmates I congratulated her on her exceptional work.
Tears began to well up in her eyes as she slowly responded, "I thought I would be perfect after today." Pause. When questioned as to what she meant, she said, "I wasn't perfect, I need to be perfect before I can give my big presentation in three weeks." After more inquiry, I learned that her parents had always demanded perfection from her. As an adult, she repeats her family history by demanding perfection from herself
I encouraged her to review her video-taped exercises with focus on her progress. "Enjoy your success today," I exclaimed. "Concentrate on what you did right, not on what wasn't perfect." My message to her applies to each of us: "You can work on improving your presentation skills, your message and your performance skills. However, if you are striving for perfection you might as well quit right now. You are placing paralyzing pressure on yourself." I offered to her that I have yet to meet perfect communicator including myself or any of our associates.
Former Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton are famous for their communication skills. They are most "perfect" communicators our world has experienced in recent history. Even these superstar communicators make mistakes as evidenced by Presidential Bloopers videotapes!
Answer these five "yes or no" questions. Go with your first reaction.
1. Do you have anxiety about giving a speech or presentation? 2. Would you rather pass on opportunity to make a speech? 3. Do you prefer to stay in background? 4. Are you uncomfortable in front of large groups of people? 5. Would you like to gain communication confidence?
If you answered "yes" to one of these questions read on!
Tip One: Let's get to major one first. Anxiety. If you feel anxious about giving a speech or making a presentation you're not alone. The majority of people we coach experience similar feelings. Starting with CEO right through ranks of most organizations, many people experience jitters. I continue to be amazed at how many senior level executives, who can command thousand of employees, turn icy-white-knuckled at thought of giving a speech or stepping in front of a television camera.
What about stars who make their living in front of audiences? This one might surprise you: Bob Hope was celebrating his 86th birthday when I had opportunity to interview him. "Did you ever get nervous or anxious before stepping on stage or in front of a TV camera," I asked? "Oh, honey, day I don't have some anxiety, I don't want to do it anymore." You see, a professional uses their anxiety as part of "adrenaline rush" or "edge" in their performance skills. You can turn yours into a plus or your anxiety will be a minus in your presentation skills. Think of it as your assistant rather than your detractor.