How to Overcome Legal Training Stage Fright

His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti
He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready
To drop bombs, but he keeps on forgettin’
What he wrote down, the whole crowd goes so loud
He opens his mouth, but the words won’t come out
He’s chokin’, how, everybody’s jokin’ now
The clocks run out, times up, over, blaow!
— Eminem, with a case of stage fright

Stage fright. We've all experienced those pre-event nerves that threaten to derail all our hard work. 

Truth be told, I still get a case of nerves before every legal training presentation I give. Sweaty palms. Butterflies in my stomach. An impending feeling of doom. 

Why do we get stage fright? And what can corporate counsel do to prevent stage fright from ruining our training presentations?

Why do we get stage fright?

Stage fright is our body's natural response to stressful situations like speeches, presentations and difficult discussions. Think about it. What are some of the thoughts going through your head right before an important advertising law training presentation? 

"What if I screw up?"

"What if they hate it?"

"What if I trip and dump coffee all over the CMO?" 

"Am I going to get fired and never get a job, ever again?"

Well, maybe some of these are exaggerations, but you get my point.

We are hard wired to be concerned about our reputation, and any possible threat to our hard-earned reputation triggers our body's "fight-or-flight" mechanism. Unfortunately, this means that when you stand up to give that contracts training presentation, your body is acting like you're being chased by hungry bears

I'm hungry.jpg

Okay, so you're being chased by a pack of hungry bears, errrr, I mean getting in front of the audience for an antitrust training presentation. 

How do you overcome stage fright?

How can we overcome stage fright?

Science gives us 3 effective ways to help overcome stage fright:

1. Stretch your arms above your head and breathe deep

When are your nerves the worst? For me, it's right before I start the presentation. In order to combat those pre-event nerves, stretch your arms above your head and take some deep breaths. 

This exercise will activate your hypothalamus glad, releasing relaxation hormones throughout your body, helping you to overcome stage fright. 

2. Practice, practice, practice


This one sounds like low hanging fruit, right? Even though we all understand that "practice-makes-perfect," I find that presentation practice is one of the first things to get cut when I'm busy.

But think about the best presentations you've ever seen. Did the presenters look or sound nervous? No? How did they overcome stage fright?

The great speakers (e.g., President Bill Clinton, Steve Jobs, etc.) practiced speeches for hours and hours to get the material right and help overcome stage fright. 

You've asked employees to sit and listen to you for 30-60 minutes. The least you can do is practice the presentation to overcome your stage fright. Ultimately, this helps create a more stimulating and engaging environment for legal training. 

3. Use negative visualization

What's the worst that could happen if you totally botch this presentation? Seriously, think about it. 

Famous entrepreneur and frequent public speaker, Tim Ferrisstells us that negative visualization is critical to overcoming stage fright. 

Negative visualization is the process of asking yourself to imagine the worst case scenario of any situation - here a legal training presentation. 

By going through this exercise, you will understand which fears are reasonable, which are not, and how you can respond to each. 

Understanding your specific (and reasonable) fears makes them more manageable. 

Let's see negative visualization in action:

I'm giving a legal training presentation on Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. I'm really nervous. 

What's the worst case scenario of me botching the entire presentation?

Will I still be alive? Yes.

Will I still have a job? Yes. 

Will I still have the respect of my colleagues? Most likely, yes. 

Okay so what happened? Well I gave a really erratic presentation. The employees didn't really pay attention because I didn't command the material and couldn't answer a lot of their questions (because of the nerves). 

Is that a big deal in the grand scheme of things? No. 

Can I recover professionally? Yes. 

Will I still have a good reputation? Yes. 

See? It's all going to be okay. 

By using negative visualization, you can help overcome your worst case of stage fright. 

PSIf you're still concerned about stage fright before a contracts training presentation, we have a powerful solution for you. Click here for more information.