Sometimes “etiquette” seems to fly out the door, however, through no fault of our own. We want to act as professionally as we look and follow proper etiquette, but sometimes that’s hard to do. There is one example of when etiquette takes a back seat but with good reason. it has to do with getting nervous. When you’re nervous, you often make mistakes and that can seem unprofessional.
Seriously, do you ever get really nervous about doing something? So nervous that the butterflies are not only flying in formation, they are also doing something like synchronized swimming in your stomach? Why is it that sometimes we can do a task that doesn’t make us even skip a beat, and other times it immobilizes us from doing anything at all?
[ctt template=”3″ link=”VTXmC” via=”yes” ]Have you ever been so nervous that it feels like the butterflies in your stomach are not only flying in formation, they are also doing something like synchronized swimming in your stomach?[/ctt]
You can use many examples when we talk about nervousness: in a job interview, delivering a speech at work, even reading bible verses at church. You know the feeling that starts in the pit of your stomach, makes your hands all clammy and yucky, throws even normal breathing patterns right out the window…and sleep isn’t an option the night before.
I teach a great course on Presentation Skills. It is primarily for people who have to make presentations as part of their job. I was teaching it in Edmonton and we were discussing the nervousness that goes with giving a presentation. Someone in the class asked me why they got so nervous—especially in front of a group of peers. Although this is a very normal question, my answer was slightly different this time.
I think that we are nervous because we care. We care about not making fools of ourselves; we care about making sure that our content makes sense; we care about doing a good job; we care about the job we are applying for; we care about the company, the people and the accuracy of the information. If we didn’t care, we wouldn’t feel nervous, would we?
Have you ever noticed that if you have to present in front of people you know, it is much harder than speaking to people you don’t know? Even for me, a professional speaker, this is the case. When someone I know is in the audience there is much more on the line.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”e3Ej1″ via=”yes” ]Have you ever noticed that if you have to make a presentation in front of people you know, it is much harder than speaking to people you don’t know?[/ctt]
I’m currently in a huge state of nervousness about a presentation I’m about to make. Why? Because it matters. Does it matter anymore than the countless other presentations I’ve made before? Probably not. What does matter is the fact that my audience is filled with my peers. I care about doing a good job. Now I know, and you know, that we regularly do a good job, right? So why does this matter so much? More importantly, what can we do about it?
Well, acknowledge what you are nervous about. Is it about looking stupid? If that is the case, be sure that you know your material the best you possibly can. If you do that, you won’t look stupid. If you have to give a presentation at work, be prepared, practice the night before, and if you stumble a bit, so what? Just keep your cool and move on. When I read in church, I make sure that I am very comfortable with the words in the passage because I don’t want to pronounce any of them the wrong way.
What else are we nervous about? Sometimes we are nervous about being judged by our peers. Fair enough, right? And we may be, and there is nothing we can do to change that. So, if we know we are being judged, shouldn’t we make sure that there is nothing they can legitimately criticize?
We are also nervous about the crazy things in life. Things like having toilet paper sticking out of the back of our pants; like saying something completely inappropriate; like your voice mysteriously disappearing just before it is your time to speak. I worry about those crazy things, too, but I always do a “check” before it is my turn in the spotlight. These kinds of things have happened to others before, and not a single person has died as a result of it. Eventually, it makes for a very funny story.
Nervous energy is a legitimate thing. It is there. Ignoring it does not make it go away. We must deal with it rationally. Figure out what we are nervous about and ensure that you have done everything you can to avoid that situation. when the event is over and you look back on it, always ask yourself “would I have done anything differently if I had the situation to live all over again?” If the answer is no, great! There isn’t much to be nervous about and practice will make it perfect. If the answer is yes, then implement your suggestions and try again!
Good luck! Remember that nervousness is a good sign. The more you feel it, the more you care about doing a good job and that is never a negative sign.