Two students stayed after class yesterday to talk to me about how nervous they were to give their first presentations. One of them was particularly distraught. She said, “I don’t think I can do this. Being up in front of an audience is just so nerve-racking. I’m afraid I’ll make a fool of myself.”

Her friend gave her a reassuring pat on the arm and simply said, “I’m sure it will be okay.”

Both students were facing the same assignment. But they had drastically different outlooks.

Research tells us that positive self-talk can make a huge difference when it comes to our stress levels. Wellness Coach Elizabeth Scott says, “Self-talk is the internal dialogue we use to view the world, explain situations and communicate to ourselves, and the type of self-talk you use—negative self-talk or positive self-talk—can affect the level of stress you experience.”

Here are 3 ways to take control of your internal dialogue so that you approach your next presentation with more positive self-talk, lower stress, and greater confidence.

1. Examine Your Thoughts

First, you need to be aware of when your thoughts have turned negative. When you catch yourself going down a mental path that might not be helpful, throw on the brakes. Healthline has a list of questions that I love for shining a spotlight on our inner dialogue. Use the following questions, or others like them, to stop your negative thoughts in their tracks.

  • Am I overreacting?
  • Am I overgeneralizing?
  • Am I labeling myself harshly?
  • Is this an all-or-nothing thought?
  • How truthful and accurate is this thought?


2. Be Kind to Yourself

We often think things about ourselves that we would never say to a friend. Negative self-talk doesn’t leave much room for mistakes or grace. It criticizes anything less than perfection. But we know that none of us is perfect. As you think about yourself as a speaker, give yourself room to be human. Change your inner dialogue so that it reflects the kind of the things you would say to a friend who is facing something tough. And let go of expectations of perfection. As John Steinbeck wrote, “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”

3. Reframe

Cognitive restructuring is one of the most powerful ways to combat negative thought patterns. This technique involves reframing your thoughts. For example, you might think about standing in front of the audience to give a speech and think, “This is going to be so bad because I have no clue what I’m doing.” Instead of letting that all-or-nothing, consuming thought have free reign, take control. Replace the negative with something positive or at least neutral like, “this may be tough because it’s not something I do often, but I’m ready to challenge myself and try something new!” Researchers have established strong proof that the more positive your self-talk is, the less stress you will experience as a result.

The next time you feel yourself slipping into old, harmful thought patterns, stop them, be kind to yourself, and reframe the situation. You’ll find that when you do, you can approach that big presentation with newfound calm and confidence.

We’d love to be part of your next big presentation. See how Ethos3 can help you from development to design to delivery.


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