I received a call from my friend, Greg Boyd. Greg was a very active member of our Atlanta technology community but moved his family to Connecticut last year. Greg said, “I have to give the biggest presentation of my life. And it is to the largest group of my life. Help me.”
“What kind of help do you need?” I asked.
“Please review my presentation and make it better,” Greg replied.
Greg sent me the presentation, and I had no idea how to make it better. So I sat on it for a couple of days to think about it. When I finally went back to it, he had already given the presentation.
Here is Greg’s remarkable story of overcoming fear.
I recently had to prepare a presentation for a large audience of Travelers’ employees. My internal dialogue hit the redline. My co-presenter had given TED Talk presentations that wowed everyone up to the Chairman. By contrast, I’m a relative newcomer.
My anxiety was palpable, but I prayed and my peers prayed. I also learned a trick from a friend.
I heard that it was not possible to feel fear and gratitude at the same time. So before the presentation, I flooded my brain with gratitude.
It worked. We brought the house down. I used an Oreo to describe Travelers’ Geospatial Strategy.
It was the best presentation of the day. Crazy but true.
Afterward, people said they were proud to be a part of the organization. I felt honored to have evoked that emotion. Thank you, God.
My friend, Martha, said, “It’s amazing that you can just direct your mind to start thinking of things for which you feel grateful. And then the gratitude actually increases both dopamine and serotonin.”
Gratitude can become a mental habit which feeds itself in a kind of positive loop—you start to actively look for things to be grateful for, especially in the moment (I’m grateful for my family, my faith, this job, this opportunity to present…).
If I notice I am having negative thoughts, I will choose to focus on why I am grateful.
It’s a powerful feeling to realize that we have power to direct our thoughts and, therefore, our moods.
We are responsible for our thoughts—not thoughts of judgment and beating ourselves up, but mindfulness in any given moment. We can re-direct our thoughts in a gentle and consistent way.
When we are put in the position of doing something we fear, such as giving presentations, we too often try to just work harder. To improve it. To expand it. To make killer graphics. But this feeds our anxiety.
Our anxiety is out of control because we focus on externals. Instead, we should be thinking about our audience’s needs and not our own.
Greg’s unique method encourages us to be grateful for our audience as the first item on our list of gratitudes. When the audiences senses the grateful heart, a powerful connection is made.