Dear Latimer: More Answers to Your Questions

Hello friends! We are continuing our latest blog tradition of fielding your questions about effective communication. You can send us the questions any way you want… via phone, email or the “Dear Latimer” box on the right side of most pages on our site. When we get a question we will always answer directly back to you. And when appropriate, we will publish your questions and our answers on our blog (always with your permission, and anonymously if requested). Our goal here is to give you some quick support and share some of our answers with the entire Latimer Community.

So, fire away with those questions, and we look forward to hearing from you.

Have a great day! ~Dean and Team Latimer

Dear Latimer,

I get really nervous when I speak in front of my colleagues, especially senior ones. How can I make this less of an issue? I need to make my nerves go away. This is getting in my way.

— “Nervous in the service.”

Dear “Nervous.” We get this one all the time. In fact, it also came up in a workshop this week. So, you are not alone. In fact, you are part of a really big club. Let’s start there… this is a pretty common thing. Not to minimize it, but it can help reduce the amount of anxiety when you realize how many people feel the way you do.

More specifically, making your nervousness “go away” is probably an unrealistic goal. Lots and lots of elite performers, even ones who are at the top of their craft, suffer from high levels of performance anxiety. So, making your nerves disappear may not actually ever happen.

A better goal is probably to try and reduce the impact of your nerves. In other words, if we can’t make the anxiety “go away,” perhaps we can instead make sure it doesn’t “get in the way.”

How do we do that?

We have three pieces of advice in this area, two of which might seem obvious. But for many people, the seemingly obvious probably isn’t all that obvious:

  1. Preparation. We preach preparation all the time. And being prepared is a big part of anxiety management. The less prepared we are, the more likely we are to be nervous. So, thinking about all the elements of the performance — your message, any supporting documents, and your delivery — will be an important step. And don’t just think about it… do the hard prep. The more important the event, and the more you suffer from anxiety, the more prep you probably need to put in.
  2. Practice. Preparation is a big deal… but you can’t stop there. Practice, and we mean “out loud practice,” is equally important. You won’t be fully ready by just staring at your notes in silence. Say what you intend to say, out loud, many times, preferably in front of someone you trust, or even into a voice recorder (that is turned on… no extra charge for that advice). What do you sound like? Did your words come out of your mouth the way it all existed in your head? Practice makes progress, as my kids like to say.
  3. Intentional stress management. Even when you are fully prepared, and have practiced sufficiently, you will still need some sort of routine that minimizes the impact of your anxiety. Many of the top athletes in the world, all of whom are prepared and have practiced ad nauseum, require an intentional process to reduce the impact of their anxiety. You will too. So figure out what is helpful to you. My process includes some deep breathing, some positive self talk, and phoning a trusted friend when necessary. But you need to figure out what works for you.

But most importantly, let’s go back to where we started. Eliminating your anxiety is almost certainly an unrealistic goal. Instead, focus on keeping it in check.

You got this… good luck!

  • Dean

Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?

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Dean Brenner

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.