This week we saw BMW’s new CEO Harald Krüger, collapse on stage. This is something many speakers and presenters fear but will rationalize that it will not happen to them. The chances of passing out on stage are slim, of course, but it can happen. The good news is that Mr. Krüger is fine and this episode is being chalked up to feeling unwell earlier in the day.
So, what can we do to prevent ourselves from falling over while on stage? Sometimes, we are just simply sick, but feel that the show must go on. If that is the case, we have to weigh the decision of whether or not to go on at all. If you feel that you must get up there, you may want to tell your audience that you are under the weather and sit rather than stand. Nerves and exhaustion can prove to be an unsteady mix.
But sometimes it may be that our nerves are getting the better of us, our minds race and lightheadedness sets in. Let’s discuss lowering those stress and anxiety levels.
First and foremost, be as prepared as possible. Practice your presentation to the point that you are very comfortable with it and the talking points are second nature. To be sure, “practice” doesn’t mean glancing at your notes. We mean that you should read your comments aloud so that you can reinforce what you will say. When possible, rehearse in the event space so that the amplified sound of your own voice doesn’t freak you out.
Some of us take our breathing for granted. This involuntary function can be controlled to help us get through our presentation. Take some slow deep breathes before getting in front of your audience. Most importantly, take a deep breath just before you utter your first words. If you don’t start on a full lung, you will be catching your breath and will sound nervous. When you sound nervous to yourself, you will perpetuate your own sense of unease, resulting in even more anxiety.
Getting ready for your presentation also requires some rest the night before. Of course, life and work get in the way of good sleep. When that’s the case, some of us turn to coffee, and then more coffee and caffeine. Too much of this can cause your heart to race and will not help you calm down. My personal preference is the shot of B-12 in Berocca and my good friend Red Bull.
If the fear of speaking in front of small or large groups causes you enough anxiety that you think that you may suffer a career-fatal crash, seek the right help, prepare and practice.
Melissa F Daly has 20 years of financial communications experience, with a special focus on key message development and media relations around critical issues. Melissa formed MFD Communications after spending three years at Goldman Sachs as Vice President, Corporate Communications. At Goldman, Melissa focused on raising the profile of the its Asset Management and Private Wealth divisions, as well as the firm’s political activities. Prior to that, she was a Director at Brunswick Group, a London-based financial and strategic communications firm. There, she spearheaded its financial services business in the US, managing communications for hedge fund, private equity, insurance and traditional asset management firms. Melissa also worked at Fred Alger Management, The Hartford and Lipper in senior communications and media relations roles and has frequently appeared on CNBC and CNN as an industry commentator. Her experience spans across business sectors and continents.