New Managers: Fighting the Anxiety of Speaking to a Group

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Be it a pep talk to your sales team or a market report to your superiors, for many new managers and executives, speaking to a group of people can create a wave of anxiety that hinders them from giving a good presentation.

Here are three reasons I have found that cause this anxiety, which, with a little management training and preparation, you can overcome.

Does the manager feel prepared?

Anxiety may creep up when a manager feels he is not 100% comfortable with his material. He begins to focus on things like, “What if someone asks me a question and I don’t know the answer?” or, “I hope I don’t sound unprepared.”

Maybe a manager is presenting a report on her division or a market plan for the upcoming quarter. If she is not 100% sure of what she wants to convey to the audience, then it will show in her delivery.

To minimize this, know your material inside and out. Think of any possible question the audience could ask and prepare answers. Understand all the details of the information being presented, but keep the facts of the presentation simple. This will keep you focused on delivering a few key points without overwhelming your audience with too much detail.

How much time has the manager spent rehearsing the presentation?

Anxiety surely will rise up if a manager has not practiced the presentation before show time. Actors do not go onstage to perform without rehearsing every move and speaking the lines over and over until the script has become second nature to them.

In the example of presenting a market plan for the upcoming quarter, did the manager speak the text of the presentation alone so she could get used to hearing herself speak? How did the manager move and what did she do with her hands? Did the manager practice with the technology she planned to use (for example, an overhead projector, et al) to prevent fumbling onstage? Did the manager make notes on what areas did not “work” and then go back and do it over again until it felt comfortable? Did the manager practice the presentation with a co-worker to get feedback on how clearly the information was received?

When a manager has practiced enough times to become 100% comfortable with their presentation, then they will gain the necessary confidence to overcome any situations that arise.

Why is the manager doing the presentation?

This is the most important reason why anxiety rears its ugly head. Is the manager giving the presentation to impress the audience or to educate them?

If the goal of the manager’s market plan presentation is to impress his boss, he won’t. If he focuses on “I hope they like me!” or “I hope I don’t screw up!” then the manager will lose focus on what point he is trying to get across.

Once the manager begins his presentation, his focus must be on educating the audience. He should be saying to himself, “I am here to teach them and help them. It is no longer about me.”

The manager’s focus should be “I am presenting this information so the people in this room can understand that information and utilize that information to do their jobs more effectively.”

Then, not only will the manager keep anxiety at bay, he also will end up impressing the audience without focusing on it.

Remember: A great presentation is never about the presenter but always about the audience.

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