Blushing is biological – it is a natural biological response to adrenaline. When we blush we feel embarrassed and when we feel embarrassed we want to hide. The most demanding time of any presentation is the first eight seconds, where you have everything to win and everything to lose. Here are seven ways to beat the blush.
Adrenaline doesn’t know the difference between physical threat and social threat. It thinks a tiger is in the room and goes into fight, flight or freeze mode as you go to speak. The best thing you can do is to acknowledge it will happen. It will be there, but you can tame it. If you pretend it won’t happen it will ambush you and you will feel awful. You don’t need to feel awful. You just need to be prepared.
You can’t stop four seconds into your presentation and take a nice big breath, but if the habit is there, breathing will become a mighty weapon to tame adrenaline. How do you do it? Practise the day before your presentation by breathing in to the count of four, holding to the count of four and then breathing out to the count of four. People use this as a tool when things get overwhelming. Speaking can be overwhelming. So prepare for it. Do it now as you are reading this. It will instantly ground you. Practice three times a day and breathing becomes your friend. Then when you are speaking and as you take a gentle breath in before you speak, your brain will thank you for it and will calm the adrenaline surge.
If adrenaline wants to put you into fight or flight mode, and you know this and you are breathing well, you can stop it. How? Smile, warmly, (without looking like a psychopath). Let your smile be the first four seconds. It will calm you and instantly connect you with the audience. If you are connecting with the audience, you are harnessing adrenaline.
You are breathing, you are smiling, now it’s time to harness adrenaline and beat the blush by taking control of your voice. Your voice needs to be running the show, and not adrenaline. TThis is how you do it – and you have to trust me here, because of the 16,000 people I have coached, nobody has thought this was the right thing to do...until they tried it. Speak 5% louder, 5% faster and make your sentences shorter. Record yourself and this is what you will find: you are present to your sentences, you are not thinking about the next sentence and you no longer sound like a newsreader!
The third F of adrenaline after 'fight' and 'flight' is 'freeze'. So do the opposite. Move. If you are sitting, place your hands in front of your desk at one point, switch to crossing your legs. If you are standing, deliberately move to the other side of the screen that is behind you. It will give you just enough control of your body to keep you confident.
If you really want to beat the blush, you need to rehearse everything I have just said. Don’t wait for the moment to decide to breathe, don’t move out of panic. Adrenaline is like a stallion – it is wild, and deeply and fiercely protective of you in the moment. So you have to tell it, in the moment, that you are okay. Rehearsing is the best way.
Most people crash into the end of their presentation and that is when adrenaline takes back over. So here is a slightly weird piece of advice – end before you feel you need to end. You will be surprised that you have probably said all you need to say. Now you just need to pause and let the next thing happen.
These seven things, Acknowledge, Breathe, Smile, 5%, Move, Rehearse and End will ultimately show you what life can look like when you harness the power of adrenaline and will guarantee you beat the blush!