A quick look at the headlines and you know JFK airport in New York has been the focal point of the latest terror threat. A team of people were trying to figure out how to use the fuel lines running into and around the airport as a way to kill innocent people. What, you might ask, does this have to do with how you get your point across to an audience? Well, come along and you’ll see. (I happen to be flying into JFK airport tomorrow, so “fear” has crossed my mind recently!)
Often we are affected by fear as we approach a major presentation or know we’ll have to be in the media on a tough issue. Just how do you deal with fear? Here are a few suggestions to get you through your next situation which would normally cause you to break out in a cold sweat.
Turn fear on its head:
That’s how I’m dealing with flying into JFK tomorrow. Afraid? Heck no! It is probably the safest airport in the country right now because of all the security scrutiny it has received over the last few weeks. Why be any more worried today unless there is a concrete reason to become concerned? The same is true for your next major presentation. We are often consumed by fear for irrational reasons. The truth is you are probably more prepared to talk about the topic than anyone else – if you’ve had a chance to think through your message then you are ahead of everyone else. At the very least you’ll have some fresh light to shed on the topic. Take that fear and turn it around!
Acknowledge the fear:
Afraid to appear on-camera? Say so! You’d be surprised how much help you can get just by acknowledging your fear. As a reporter for 25 years I can tell you I always took a little extra time with someone who said they were apprehensive about doing an interview. The same is true for an audience. If you tell them, “Hey, this public speaking thing is not always my favorite part of the job,” they’ll cut you some slack. You still have to be solid, informative and organized, but you don’t have to wow them with your speaking skill. Just focus on what you know and they will appreciate it. (Don’t go on-and-on about this. A brief mention of your fear of public speaking will get you a sympathy/empathy vote. If you keep going back to it they’ll think you’re a mess.)
Practice away your fear:
Finally, the best way to deal with fear is to practice it away. And make it quality practice. Focus on your presentation or media message and practice in as realistic a setting as possible. Bring in an outsider to get feedback or hire an expert who does this kind of thing for a living. (See below!)
So, when I safely land at JFK Airport tomorrow I’ll be focused on all the great things I’m going to accomplish while I’m there – not about something that would just have been an unhealthy distraction.