Are you preparing properly for your major pitch or presentation?
Most people who deliver important pitches or presentations as part of their work can relate to the feeling of nervousness or excitement, especially before the big event. It’s often a sensation that takes over your whole body and causes the shakes, breathing problems and a squirmy stomach. Actually, this feeling of excitement or nervousness is known as the fight-or-flight response and it is your body’s sympathetic nervous system reacting to what is perceived as a stressful event.
Cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline are released
When you experience the fight-or-flight response, your body produces larger quantities of the three chemicals: cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. These chemicals trigger a higher heart rate, heightened muscle preparedness, sweating, and alertness. The idea is that these chemicals will in fact help you protect yourself in a dangerous or stressful situation. It means that a bit of this is a good thing as long as you manage it properly.
Your non-essential functions slow down
Interestingly, when you are experiencing fight-or-flight a number of other things happen in your body that you should know about for peak performance. In general, non-essential body functions slow down, such as your digestive and immune systems. In this way your body can focus it’s efforts on getting you through the stressful period by using rapid breathing, increased blood flow, alertness and muscle use.
According to Medical News Today, when we are stressed the following happens:
– Blood pressure rises
– Breathing becomes more rapid
– Digestive system slows down
– Heart rate rises
– Immune system goes down
– Muscles become tense
– We do not sleep (heightened state of alertness)
What can you do about it?
There are some things you can do to ensure that you look after your health and get the best from your next presentation.
1. Stay away from alcohol, coffee and cigarettes – they will dehydrate you, add to the overstimulation, and mess up your ability to sleep properly and rejuvenate yourself before your big day.
2. Don’t eat too much on the day of the presentation. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables and some light protein as opposed to high fat or sugary foods. You can’t process large amounts of processed food and be nervous at the same time!
3. Drink at least 6-8 glasses of water on the days when you need to stay hydrated and perform at your best. Some scientists suggest that water will help you flush your cortisol through your system more quickly.
4. Tense and relax your muscle groups (shoulders, hands, legs, bottom) twice in quick succession to burn off some of your adrenalin and take the tension from your muscles.
5. Focus on the fact that you are not there for yourself – you are there to serve your audience. The more you look into their eyes and really connect with them (person to person) and focus on the relationship not the win, the more you’ll relax and enjoy. Happy Presenting!
Michelle Bowden is an authority on presentation & persuasion in business. Michelle is a CSP (the highest designation for speakers in the world), co-creator of the PRSI (a world-first psychometric indicator that tests your persuasiveness at work), best-selling internationally published author (Wiley), and a regular commentator in print, radio and online media. Www.michellebowden.com.au