Do C-Suite executives really get nervous giving presentations?
The answer is a resounding yes.
You may be thinking how could that be?
How can successful people who have reached significant milestones in their professional careers, get nervous giving presentations? After all, they must be experienced and confident to have achieved their current status. It doesn't seem plausible.
Surprisingly, or not surprising to me because I encounter this frequently, many of these talented, smart individuals experience a lot of nervous when it comes to public speaking.
There are different reasons for it depending on the individual. Here are a few I encounter in my speech coaching practice:
1. Expanded communication role
Does this sound familiar?
Maybe you came into a company with a particular expertise. In finance, for example, or engineering, IT or other. Because of your expertise, you were promoted. Now you find yourself in a much broader communication role, and you just don't have the skills or experience to perform in unfamiliar and often rigorous settings.
These settings can range from delivering keynotes, moderating panels, boardroom or stockholder meetings of a dozen people or audiences of a thousand people. Whatever the venue, you find the current approach for delivering presentations that has worked so well for you in the past, doesn't meet your current requirements.
And often no one will tell you! After all, no one wants to be the one to tell the head honcho they're not so good at this.
The second reason I encounter is…
2. Increased exposure to great speaking
This may sound counter-intuitive, but the increased exposure to high-quality speakers can be intimidating. The fact that we have the ability, at our fingertips, to watch and learn from the best online is remarkable and a definite advantage.
However, while we're now able to view thousands of TED talks, watch replays of conference presentations from business leaders like Steve Jobs, Sheryl Sandberg, Simon Sinek and other professional speakers, there's a downside. People can become overwhelmed and discouraged realizing their skills pale in comparison.
Studying someone online isn't the same as doing it yourself and frustration can set in when you don't understand how to get those results for yourself.
And the third most common reason is...
3. They learned by doing
Believe it or not, this is the biggest reason I encounter.
Because people have learned by trial and error, there are often gaps in their approach or, missing pieces in their technique.
Many of my clients learned how to communicate in various settings because they had to. They were thrown into situations without training or coaching (or minimal at best) and developed a style and approach along the way that “gets them by”.
Again, it worked up until now, but no longer.
In a recent coaching session, I asked a successful client who always experienced tremendous nervousness, "Why did it take you so long to reach out for support?” His answer was, "I didn't want to go through a lengthy overhaul and the process of failing and succeeding to become a good speaker at this stage in the game."
I understood his concerns.
But the reality was that as a senior level person in a financial institution for many years he was already pretty good at this! Yes, there were a few missing pieces in his process of which he was unaware, and once those dots were connected and resolved, I knew he would regain his confidence - quickly.
I have a few thoughts to share with you to make this easier...
1. Encourage honest feedback
Surround yourself with competent people whose opinions you value and give them permission to be honest with you. It's in your best interest.
You want to be selective of course and choose feedback givers wisely. If you have a person in your circle whom you respect in this area and is an experienced communicator themselves, ask for a private evaluation of how you did.
They must be experienced however if you want them to offer solutions.
2. Go easy on yourself
As you study presenters and programs online, remember that many of the speakers you watch are trained, rehearsed and in some cases, professional speakers. In other words, they speak publicly for a living.
In the case of TED talks, as you watch compelling messages delivered in an intimate conversational style be aware the presenters must adhere to strict guidelines to ensure the quality and spirit these talks embody. Scripting begins months in advance of the event and by the time the speaker presents their talk, they've been coached, rehearsed and given the talk in front of live audiences several times.
As you evaluate the of risk, exposure and rigor of your own events, determine how much time you need to get up to speed. Give it the time it deserves for you to be successful.
3. Seek out professional help
I'm not talking about hiring a life coach or an executive coach. While there are significant benefits to both, I'm talking about hiring an executive speaking coach who has experience in the specific areas you want improvement.
It can make a tremendous difference and in a short period of time.
One of my clients is a dynamic female president of a company. When she started giving Keynote presentations at the annual conference, she realized she needed help. Presenting on a big stage the size of a football field both with and without a podium, required a level of public speaking expertise beyond her experience.
(By the way, anyone in this situation would be nervous!)
She understood her credibility was at stake and tackled the situation head on. By seeking out the right kind of support for herself, her diligence paid off.
She’s now able to speak eloquently, authentically and with confidence on large stages.
Keeping in mind your budget, location and whether you can meet in-person (in the beginning at least), you’ll be able to find the appropriate resource to satisfy your needs.
It's a new game. The stakes are high these days for everyone in most professions to communicate clearly, with confidence, authority, authenticity, and ease. Make it one of your priorities, you'll be glad you did.