Presenting to senior leaders: overcome presentation anxiety

Presenting to senior leaders and executives can be daunting, especially if you're new to the role or don't have a lot experience presenting. An important concept to master is your 'way-of-being.' By managing your way-of-being, you can become a relaxed and confident presenter, no matter your audience.

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Presenting to senior leaders and executives can be daunting, especially if you’re new to the role or lack extensive experience. While it’s crucial to be well-prepared with your content, an equally important concept to master is your ‘way-of-being.’ By managing your way-of-being, you can become a relaxed and confident presenter, no matter your audience.

What is way-of-being?

Your way-of-being is how you experience and make sense of the world around you. It plays a crucial role in our day-to-day lives and is especially relevant in senior leadership positions, where so much of what you do is about working out what’s going on and what must happen to achieve what’s important. 

How you experience your workday moment to moment is the result of a dynamic, constant interplay between three dimensions:

      • the language you use;

      • your emotions and moods; and

      • the way you hold yourself physically.

    This ‘way-of-being’ model will give you easy-to-use practices to become a better observer of your own temperament at any moment. The ability to constantly observe your way-of-being and how you are presenting yourself to the world is at the core of becoming a leader of leaders.

    One of the most common concerns that comes up in our work with new and emerging leaders of leaders is the fear and sometimes the terror of presenting to a group of senior executives. Leader of leader roles quite often sit just below the executive team. 

    How do you feel when presenting to people who hold more senior roles than you?

    As you move into these roles, you start to find yourself being called upon more and more to present to groups of executive-level leaders.

    Each person will have a method to counteract the nervousness that comes with presenting to any group, let alone your superiors at work.

    Consider the following two points that can help you navigate the nerves, fear and uncertainty that can come with presenting to senior executives.

    Fear is normal

    Almost every new leader of leaders brings this up in our work. It’s normal and healthy to find these experiences scary at first. What makes it even tougher is that your anxiety can affect your performance. How do you feel when you are asked to present to a group of executives at work?

    Smart, confident people can suddenly get sweaty, nervous and shaky and can get brain freeze and tongue-tied. Recognise the fear and believe in yourself. 

    So, how do you overcome the fear of presenting in front of any group, let alone senior executives?

    Adapting Your Way of Being

    The idea of way-of-being can help you step up and be at your best in these moments. Being in touch with your way-of-being and knowing how to adapt it in the moment can transform your experience. 

    Your way-of-being is the overall state you are in at any moment of the day. It is how you are or feel most of the time. Somatic neuroscience is showing us that we are not simply a computer brain in a fleshy cabinet. We are very physical beings. How we experience our world and how we make sense of it comes from a continuous dynamic interplay between the language we are using (to ourselves and to others), the mood we are in, and how our body is configured. This dynamic generates our ‘in the moment’ experience. 

    So, how can you observe and modify your way of being in the moment?

    In leadership and management work we usually start by looking at what we are thinking. In the way-of-being perspective, you start with your body. Here are some tips:

      1. Focus on your breathing and slow it down: As you focus on your breathing, do an inner mental scan of your body. How are you standing or sitting? 

      2. Sit up straight, pull your shoulders back and push your chest out. When we feel anxious our bodies constrict. So, stretch yourself out.

      3. Now your face; loosen the muscles in your forehead and around your eyes. Loosen the muscles around your face and let your jaw loosen and hang open slightly.

      4. Observe what language you are using right now. Our language creates our reality. If you say to yourself, ‘I am out of my depth’ then your body will help you out by surging more adrenaline through your body to help you swim! Try saying to yourself, ‘these are all just people like me’. ‘no-one has all the answers, not me or them.’

      5. Now your mood; language and the shaping of your body generate your mood. Language that describes future catastrophes will generate a mood of anxiety, such as ‘What happens if I lose my train of thought in front of everyone?’ Instead, try saying to yourself, ‘I wonder what I will learn through this experience?’ You will find this will shift your mood from anxiety to one of curiosity and even wonder.

      Wrap Up

      As a leader of leader, you will find yourself in ambiguous and uncertain situations all the time. Understanding and modifying your way-of-being in the moment can help you enjoy engaging with more senior leaders and gradually transform your inner world so that you perform at your best.

      The leader-of-leaders role is all about constantly trying to make sense of what is going on, work out what is most important, and then determine actions within the range of what’s possible.

      Being Leaders offers a module-based program, delivered online, that provides individuals with the tools and resources to effectively make the transition into a leader-of-leader role. The program is based on the principles of Amazon best-seller, Becoming a Leader of Leaders.

      Transform your people from overworked to incredibly impactful.

      Contact Being Leaders to find out more.

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      Is your way-of-being impacting your leadership?

      The answer is yes. Leadership happens in moments; moments of sense-making, moments of relationship-building, and moments of decision-making. Your way-of-being is your overall state at any moment of the day. It determines how you adapt, respond and lead at any given moment.

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