I am always seeking inspiration for Presentation Skills from outside the business world and there is a fair amount one can learn from actors. One of my favourite pieces of advice comes from Andy Nyman on the topic of nerves. In his book The Golden Rules of Acting he advises:
Don’t say ‘I’m nervous about…’, say ‘I’m excited about…’. Try it, you’ll be amazed how effectively it gets rid of your nerves.
The clever thing about this particular gem is that nerves and excitement feed off the same sets of energy and emotion, so it is quite easy to swap them around in your mind to positive effect.
Having said you can learn from actors, there are limits to their usefulness to the business presenter. With all due respect to actors and other performers, most of them have never had a proper job for any sustained period and they simply can’t relate to the situation business presenters are in. This was all too apparent when I dealt with some top comedians seeking continued sponsorship support. One was surprised at a frosty response from a sponsor and said: “They did want us to take the p**s out them didn’t they”? My answer: ‘No and they don’t want to continue with the sponsorship, either’!
Andy Nyman, on the other hand, is a much more well-rounded actor who is an award winning writer, director and magician, highly acclaimed for his collaborations with Derren Brown. His book, therefore, is a treasure trove for actors and presenters. Having worked with a number of people whose nerves are exacerbated by watching videos of themselves, I was fascinated to find Andy saying that actors have similar reservations:
Watching yourself in a film or on TV is horrible – you will think your voice sounds horrible and you look awful. Trust me, it doesn’t and you don’t.
This can be a problem, it would seem, even if you happen to be James Bond! Pierce Brosnan commented that his children used to complain about his refusal to watch the latest 007 movies with them – he simply couldn’t bear to see himself on screen. Similarly afflicted, according to last Sunday’s Desert Island Discs is Bond’s boss – Dame Judi Dench. She told Kirsty Young that she hates watching herself and has never seen many of her performances. She went on to say: “But fear brings a great energy that you can turn into something useful – that is the secret of success”.
So in the words of Andy Nyman, as endorsed by Judi Dench, don’t say: “I am nervous about my presentation; say I am excited about my presentation” and feel the difference that it makes.