Six years ago, comic and actor Robin Williams committed suicide. The news media reported that it was caused by depression, substance abuse or a career downturn. Not true. Williams had diffuse Lewy body dementia, a rare and degenerative disease that ravages the body and brain. Unfortunately, there is no treatment or cure for this horrific condition. Williams’ widow Susan said that as the disease progressed, he lost confidence in himself and his talent. It kept Williams off the stage and away from his best friends.
But prior to the onset of dementia, what had sustained Williams was his unshakeable confidence. This is gold for all of us who speak to audiences, and regularly deal with our own insecurities, doubts, and reticence. Take a page from Williams’ playbook, and convince yourself that what you have to say is more important than your fear. And when you stumble, or forget what you wanted to say, acknowledge that at some point, it happens to everyone. Just keep moving forward and stay connected to your audience. Critique and evaluations are only valuable after your talk or presentation.
Also, utilize safety nets. If depending on your memory creates anxiety, develop an outline to support you. And before you present, focus on your intention, not your material. Then take on a Role that gives you strength, like Seasoned Veteran or Mobilizer. Acknowledge that delivering material in front of others naturally creates anxiety. The cure is to develop a system that keeps you advancing, whatever the stakes or your level of stress. Confidence is a skill we can learn, is reinforced by success and is ours to own.