Is Public Speaking Anxiety A Form Of Selfishness? - The Pickering Group

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Is Public Speaking Anxiety A Form Of Selfishness?


Take a look at the above video. It comes not from the world of presentation training, but from Westeros. Actor Jonathan Pryce (The High Sparrow in Game of Thrones) somewhat bluntly describes stage fright as selfishness. Ouch. That’s so cold it actually feels like winter is coming.  Jonathan suggests your focus should be on the audience and what they’re getting out of the encounter, not yourself and how you’re performing, and we think he’s onto something. 

A Match Made In Westeros

Ask yourself this: Who’s your presentation for?  Is it for you? If so, that’s a really bizarre form of self-care. Give yourself a spa day instead.  Because it’s not for you, it’s for your audience.  In many ways, you’re just the wingman for your argument or idea. You want to see the audience get together with your message – they’d be so great for each other! So don’t let your self-awareness take up too much of your focus.  Watch instead for nodding, eye contact, leaning in, all the signs that the chemistry is working. If they’re not there, adjust accordingly.

Are Nerves Bad Then?

Not at all.  You can’t help but feel nervous about how an important presentation is going to go. That’s not a problem. A total lack of nerves would signify a problem – maybe you’re too detached from the outcome to care.  Maybe you exhausted your adrenal gland with too many raves in the 90s (Dave, we’re looking at you, put down the fire poi). Maybe you’re a sociopath with one eye on the Iron Throne, or at least an intimidatingly ergonomic chair from which to rule the office. Good luck with that.  

Scared or Prepared?

Nerves are okay – a few butterflies to get you awake and vibrant are actually helpful. But you shouldn’t need to break out the Mortein. If nerves are an issue for you (join the enormous club) consider this:  how confident you feel about your presentation is actually a factor of how well prepared you are. Here’s how to be ready.

  1. The most important thing that underpins good preparation is knowing your material. Even if you lose your place, you’ll be able to talk around the basic ideas and get a message across. If you know there’s an area you’re shaky on, get it clarified before you go into the encounter. No one likes a shaky area.


  1. Then spend the time to give your presentation a solid structure. Open strongly, make sure your message flows and builds effectively to your conclusion. Consider your closing, how you’re going to incorporate an effective call to action and leave your audience feeling the way you’d like them to feel, exactly the way Game of Thrones didn’t.


  1. Then rehearse well. Here are our tips on effective rehearsal.  Practice makes perfect: say what you like about Hodor, he got really good at saying Hodor.

At The Pickering Group, we know nerves happen.  Whether you’re a High Sparrow or low penguin, you can always improve your presentation skills.  We’ve distilled the research around mitigating presenting nerves and our guide is here.  But nerves are not a sign you’re doing something wrong. They’re a sign you care about the outcome of your presentation, and that’s a good thing.  The idea is to focus less on how you’re presenting and more on how the audience is receiving your message.

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