The Presenters Inner Critic — 3 steps to taming it

Do you have a presenters inner critic?

All presenters have one thing in common regardless of experience, status or confidence. It’s that voice in their minds that is always there offering unwanted and unhelpful thoughts. The volume of criticism and negativity gets the loudest the moment we stand to speak. It’s the presenters inner critic that takes great pleasure in telling us that we aren’t good enough.

This voice is a permanent tenant. You’ve tried everything humanly possible to evict them but they just won’t leave.

Sadly, it isn’t a voice that only tries its very best to interfere when we are about to present. It’s often far more pervasive and insidious.

‘I can’t do this’

‘I’m such a fraud’

‘I never do anything right’

The moment we stand to speak however, the presenters inner critic becomes even more specific.

‘What if I forget what to say and freeze?’

‘They probably know far more than me’

‘What if they ask me a question I don’t know the answer to?’

‘I’m a terrible presenter’

It’s not a voice to be taken lightly. Left unchecked and unmanaged, it can be very harmful. It can limit and inhibit us in a great number of ways. When it comes to presenting our thoughts and ideas at work, it can even be career limiting.

How do we silence the presenters inner critic?

It’s part of the human experience and conditioning. That said, there is a great deal you can do about it and it all revolves around mindfulness.

Following these 3 steps will serve you extremely well in managing your presenters inner critic.

Step 1: Name it

Most of us can relate to the first part of this article quite easily. It’s not however, something we pause to think about very often.

The Mindful Presenter will acknowledge, name and own the voice as a part of them.

It’s easier to manage something which you feel you have a relationship with. We can complain about being regularly chastised by some strange voice that you constantly turn our back on. Alternatively, it makes more sense to me to at least acknowledge it and open up a dialogue with it. It’s also easier to have a conversation with someone who has a name.

I’ve named my presenters inner critic TAZ

One of my favourite cartoons as a child was one called ‘The Tasmanian Devil’. This was a devious and destructive little character. He would spin like a vortex causing havoc and chaos everywhere he went.

If I leave my inner critic unchecked and unmanaged he can often feel like the Tasmanian devil of my mind.

Naming TAZ allows me to acknowledge his existence. He has always been there and over the years already done a great deal of damage. Now I’ve named him, I have to the courage to speak to him. As TAZ was a cartoon character that I found hilariously funny and knew he wasn’t real, he never scared me.

I can have an open and honest relationship with TAZ. Sometimes he can be quite entertaining.

Give your presenters inner critic a name before you take the following steps.

Step 2: Talk to TAZ

You wouldn’t believe the things TAZ says to me. If I listened to and believed every word he told me I would probably never step out of my house. I certainly would never be able to present or speak in public.

If I let TAZ do all of the talking as I did for many years then I give him all of my power. I don’t do that anymore. We have a conversation . Sometimes I very politely and respectfully tell him to shut up. Occasionally I’m not so polite.

I never ignore him

Often, I’ll listen carefully and then tell him what I think. I will tell him he is simply exaggerating or even lying to me. Sometimes I tell him that what he is saying is nonsense. A great deal of the time I simply tell him to leave me alone because I’m not in the mood for his antics.

Sometimes I thank him for his opinion and for keeping me on my guard. I now know that it’s just his strange way of reminding me to be the best that I can. I always, always close our conversation by reminding him that I’m the boss. We now have an understanding that he gets to do what I tell him and not the other way around.

Step 3: Give TAZ a rest

Sometimes TAZ has an insatiable appetite for noise and chaos. Sometimes, even when I tell him to calm down he doesn’t. I realise that I have to make him. I know that I can’t put him to sleep completely but I can get him to be quiet’.

How?

I meditate twice every day. I also ensure that I meditate for a few minutes just before I present.

This short article The Neuroscience of Why Meditation Works explains more. It also offers a very simple meditation exercise for you to being with.

Please don’t make the mistake that so many people do and try it just once. It takes commitment, discipline and practice. Your presenters inner critic will thank you for sticking with it and you’ll thank yourself too.

I’ve tried countless remedies and antidotes over the years. The best solution I have found that works to calm TAZ down is to meditate. People have been meditating for centuries and with very good reason. It works.

Meditation has been scientifically proven over many years as a way to slow down, calm down and begin to transcend thought. It’s an extremely simple and extraordinarily powerful thing to do.

If you have an inner critic like TAZ make the time to give him a rest.

Something fascinating happens when you find the time and discipline to make this a regular practice and part of your daily life. Your inner critic gradually takes a liking to the sense of peace. It’s left a little subdued for far longer throughout the day; especially when you stand to present.

If you need help taming your presenters inner critic:

– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.

– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.

– Get yourself some excellent presentation training

If this article has inspired you to learn a little more about how effective your presentation skills are you may want to take a look at our presentation training and public speaking coaching pages to see how we may be able to help you. You will also find a great deal of really helpful ‘free’ information in our Learning Centre.

Photo by Mahdi Bafande on Unsplash

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Maurice DeCastro

Maurice DeCastro

Author, speaker, trainer, presenter - former corporate executive passionate about personal leadership, people and results.