NECF conference last week, and something that came up over and over in these short sessions was the Great "What If?", in the form of "What if I forget my place?" or "What if I get tongue-tied?" or "What if I can't answer a question?" or "What if my face turns red?" or "What if they can tell I'm nervous?"
And on and on.
As I wrote about in this blog post, you can always be prepared for the unknown, to some degree. If you do fear any of the things above, or any of a million other things, you can actually plan for them and anticipate how you would handle the situation. Things don't always go our way, and our best-laid plans don't always succeed. But it's one option.
Here's another option: Stop giving so much mental energy to these fears in the first place.
Planning is one way to disperse the energy. When you put it into a plan, you can let it go and stop taking up space in your conscious mind.
But you can also let it go without planning. You can counter the Great "What If?" with the Great "So What?" So what if you forget your place. You'll find it again. So what if you get tongue-tied? You'll find the word, or another word. So what if they can tell you're nervous? Everyone gets nervous.
When you let go of all this mental energy tied up in the "What Ifs," you can turn your mental energy toward being in the moment with the audience. In fact, sometimes I put so much energy into being with the audience, it causes me to lose my place or forget what I was going to say. Because I'm having a conversation and engaging with them, not repeating a memorized script. And -- oops -- I look at my notes and remember what I wanted to say and I move on.
Put your energy into serving the audience, making your presentation about the value you can give them and the relationship you can build with them. Let your energy flow to them in an open, giving and present way, rather than bottling up all that energy into your worries and fears.
If you need to write a plan beforehand, to disperse some of that energy, do so. And then release the rest of that mental energy to your audience. Get grounded, get relaxed, and then GIVE.
They'll send it back through their facial expressions, their body language, their laughter and participation, and it'll be the most satisfying and enjoyable feeling you can ever have on stage.