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Lights, camera, action... silence: managing presentation paralysis

Created on Fri, 13/09/2013 - 14:38 by Csilla Csongvay 

From personal experience I can tell you that as soon as the camera starts rolling your mind goes completely blank. Never mind that this is a subject you can talk about ad nauseam at the drop of a hat, the fact is the Director has called ACTION! and all you can think of is your sweaty palms, dry mouth and how terrified you are. Speaking to an audience is notoriously nerve wracking - some people fear it more than death! As Jerry Seinfeld quipped, 'This means that, to the average person, if you have to be at a funeral, you would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.'

However the reality for us all is that at some stage on our travels through life presenting to a group of people is something we may have to do occasionally. Job interviews, exams and presentations, for example, are all situations that require us to relax, focus, and be engaging. Luckily, there are a range of techniques that can help us do this.

Relaxing in front of the camera is essential.

Image via flickr

Techniques to help overcome the silence

Get grounded

As part of Open2Study’s content production team, I have the opportunity to work with our presenters, all experts in their chosen field, assisting them to feel relaxed and comfortable in front of the camera. Mostly my role is to divert their thought from the constant dialogue in their head and bring their attention into their bodies by focusing on their breath and posture. The best piece of advice I can offer is to ‘get grounded’ – literally. Taking off your shoes and feeling the ground beneath your feet works wonders when trying to calm the mind. This advice may not be appropriate in an interview, but that sense of physical connection works surprisingly well wherever you can get away with it. Another useful technique is to roll your spine by slowly bending forward and then back up again accompanied by a deep inhale and exhale.

Get comfortable

It also really helps to make friends with the environment you’re in. Own the space – find something that’s familiar in the room that reminds you of the safety of home, you can then take your eyes back to that object whenever you get nervous or feel yourself loosing focus. It can be as simple as a picture, a chair or a friendly face in the room. In the case of looking into the camera lens think about your favourite student or perhaps a family member that is always interested to hear what you have to say. Kurt Vonnegut wrote his books to make his sister laugh, so think of the person that you wish to teach and imagine them on the other side of the camera.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Confidence in front of an audience can only be learnt through practice, the power of rehearsing should never be underestimated. Something to remember is that you are in a two-way relationship of giving and taking with the people you are speaking to. They want to hear what you have to say, so be confident and sincere. Try to breathe through your nose rather than your mouth to help you relax, and keep a drink of cold water handy for when your mouth gets dry.

Most importantly try and have fun, don’t put too much pressure on yourself and in the end you’ll opt for the eulogy any day!


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For more about Steve Smith's visit to Bilston Market listen to In Business on BBC Radio 4 on Thursday 15 May at 20:30, repeated Sunday 18 May at 21:30. The subject is prices - 50 years after Parliament voted to abolish retail price fixing by most manufacturers.

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