Posts Tagged With: replacing old images with helpful ones

Day 547: How to prepare for a presentation

Today, I’m presenting a proposal at work, with some ideas about how to make things better for:

  1. patients who might benefit from psychotherapy services* there,
  2.  my co-workers, and
  3. ME. 

Curiously enough, I didn’t have my typical  pre-presentation reactions, which usually include:

  1. Procrastinating,
  2. Obsessing, and
  3. Freaking out 

…. in a variety of ways.

I really enjoyed not having those reactions. And I guess I didn’t need them, because today I feel ready to present.

Now, it’s possible that, without my usual presentation preparation techniques, I will suck today.  I guess that’s always possible, with or without those old presentation preparation techniques.

Not doing those things, though, was SO enjoyable, that I would like to continue to not do them.  I figured this post could be a helpful reminder for myself (and others) in the future.

However, is this post really living up to its title?  Am I explaining, in a helpful way, how to prepare for a presentation?

Well, I believe I am helpfully proposing that people NOT

  1. Procrastinate,
  2. Obsess, and/or
  3. Freak out

…. in a variety of ways, when preparing for a presentation (or perhaps, preparing for anything else). And I do think that’s useful advice.

However, I think I can do a little bit better than that, before I end this post.  

What helped me, this time,  to remember to NOT do those things (which I’ve done, so many times before)?

Instead of picturing or otherwise focusing on images of possible failures, replace those with more helpful thoughts.

My mind is very good at conjuring up all sorts of ideas and pictures about how the presentation will go wrong and of people’s negative reactions.  In the therapy biz, we call these  cognitive distortions (specifically, fortune-telling, catastrophizing, and mind-reading). Do these kinds of thoughts help in preparing for a presentation?

What do you think?

My belief is that they don’t.  So, this time, I used some heavy-duty antidotes as a preventative measure — to inoculate myself before I could start worrying.

These antidotes included remembering my friend, Jeanette, on our trip to NYC this year (shown herehere, here, and here), saying to me:

I read your blog posts about your getting anxious about presentations.  When I read them, I thought, “WHAT?  WHY?”

… and Jeanette made a dismissive gesture and face, like she thought it was ABSURD that I would be nervous about such things. Jeanette let me know — with words, facial expressions, and other effective communications — her belief in my abilities to present.

So, this time, I consciously replaced my old, negative thoughts with Jeanette’s recent reactions.

Here’s Jeanette in NYC, not making the face I was imagining:


To prepare for my presentation, I used other helpful antidotes, like

  • taking space and time for myself to write the presentation, but only during work hours,
  • distracting myself with pleasurable activities** when I was not working on the presentation, and
  • “selfishly” focusing on what would make the presentation more useful, fun, productive, and natural for me.

And while all of those were great,  it was really Jeanette’s face, tone, and words — when she had such unadulterated, unquestioning faith in me — that constituted the most powerful cure.

However, what if I did NOT have Jeanette’s reaction to conjure up?  For decades, I haven’t had, at hand, such a fabulous antidote to my cognitive distortions about presentations.  

Well, in that case, I would have to work a little harder, to find a good replacement image for those old, negative thoughts. I might need to remember, and consciously picture, other affirming messages, to counteract my sometimes vivid fears.  And those positive pictures are there (even if they’re sometimes difficult to retrieve). 

Like this picture, which I saw on Sunday:


… or these, which were right there, yesterday:



If you look around, there are probably positive messages you could use, too.

Okay!  I’ve got to end this post, so I can leave for work and make a dynamic presentation.  

I’m game!  Aren’t I something?

Thanks to Jeanette, to people who prepare and/or present (despite fear or other obstacles), to positive messages (and messengers) everywhere, and to you — of course! — for presenting here, today.

* Also known as “behavioral health” services.

** I also distracted myself by focusing on my own mortality, but I might not recommend that, for everyone. Above all, respect those things that work for you.



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