How Do You Prepare?
How do you prepare for the times you wake up with a start, feeling totally unprepared trying to remember where you were and why you were feeling that way. You have a horrible pit in your stomach and you feel light-headed. You do remember grasping for your notes, trying to find something that will help you navigate the horrible feeling that you can’t find your place to fulfill your responsibilities. That feeling gets worse and worse, like you can’t get away from the situation fast enough. You then realize it was a nightmare.
It’s a nightmare many of us have experienced and it doesn’t always happen at night and in a bad dream. It can happen before you walk on a stage for a speech or performance, before a meeting, or even before what could be a difficult conversation. The feeling of being unprepared is real and it’s not comfortable at all, opening the gate for anxiety and fear. So how do you combat this feeling, especially if you’re not prone to being neurotic or obsessive-compulsive, repeating every action over and over? How do you prepare? We will cover three principles here to help answer that question including: planning ahead, establishing a routine and reviewing and practicing.
How Do You Prepare? Plan Ahead for the Unknown
A nightmare that finds you standing on a stage, speechless and grasping for words to say may not be a scenario that will ever happen to you. You may be one who sits behind a desk or at a computer, never called upon to stand and speak or even interact with clients or potential contacts. Therefore, fearing what will probably not take place seems absurd, but apparently feeling that panic does happen for many people.
Our human brain acts like an encryption device, deciphering sounds, smells and visual images, hindering as well as translating thousands of different types of code a day. It’s hard to imagine a more powerful encryption device than the brain, which constantly converts information into a type of code which drives thousands of thoughts per day. I write about this in chapter nine in the book Bad Code. I wrote the book because my large music website was hacked and I realized our minds can be hacked just as easily as a website.
Fear of speaking does propel many to join organizations similar to Toastmasters and Dale Carnegie to overcome that fear and build confidence. They have created an easy ramp into taking small steps of verbalizing short and small presentations in comfortable, safe settings. Joining an organization like this may not appeal to you, but the principle planning ahead and preparing for the probable is a very valuable one that should be heeded. In my interview with Mike Morrell, former California State Senator, he prepared for his campaign for five years while still running three successful businesses. Part of his process was joining Toastmasters to work on his speaking, a skill that did not come naturally to him. But it helped him improve tremendously.
Experiencing a nightmare could be a healthy wake-up call, propelling you to move forward toward the unexpected. There is nothing wrong with bettering yourself in areas that stretch and challenge you. What holds many back is fear or lack of action. (See: The Rabbit Hole of Distraction) If you’re honest with a worse-case scenario, you can at least think through action items to better prepare for the unexpected.
Putting the future off to endless tomorrows does no good to move anyone forward in their life or business. (See: When Things Go Wrong) Procrastination, or postponing and delaying the inevitable, is easily multiplied without a plan for follow-through on tasks. A simple plan can be as easy as creating an action list with items to check off. Establishing solid routines can help calm nerves and quell the anxiety.
How Do You Prepare? Establish a Routine
The thought of a routine may feel unnatural, rigid and boring but in many ways is freeing. Especially if the routine includes rote tasks that can free up your mind and thoughts for other areas. A good book for establishing very small routine tasks that can change your life is Tiny Habits. In this book, the premise is to connect one very small action to a task you are already performing. This works very well for activities you’d like to add to your schedule like taking regular walks, cleaning your office at the end of the day and even adding healthy choices into your diet.
So how can routine help you in quelling the nightmare of unpreparedness? First, evaluate that fear and its probable origins. Are you standing on that bare stage, stumbling for words, because you have recently been called upon to give a report to your colleagues? That scenario can scare people who would rather stay in the background but establishing a routine of mental preparedness will help you overcome some of that fear.
Putting together a routine of taking small steps as, first imagining yourself walking into a room, then creating the scene to actually walk into the room creates a good start. You can then place yourself in the position where you will most likely be speaking. You get the idea. Take one very small step at a time. (See article & interview with Linda Fogg Phillips: Tiny Habits)
How Do You Prepare? Consistently Review and Practice
When recently presenting a live-stream presentation of newly released sheet music and MP3 downloads, I spent time in practice, even recording myself multiple times, before pressing the livestream record button. Understand that this was original music and I could easily have played the pieces almost spontaneously, but I wanted to be better than that, using additional technical tools. So, the day before presenting, I spent time to completely set up with extra lights, the camera I’d be using, laptop and speaker system for playing a sound track.
I would be recording at my acoustic piano, playing and singing at the same time. The tricky part was to make sure you could hear all the parts clearly on a livestream, which is nowhere near the sound quality of a recording studio. After setting up, I rehearsed four times, recording each time on Zoom so I could evaluate the sound, lighting and performance. It took extra time and effort, but it was time I was willing to spend for the actual performance to be as good as possible with my current setup. There were still some glitches but those didn’t hinder people from liking the performance and previewing the music, which was the goal.
I apply this type of preparation with other areas as well, such as speeches. My Keynote speech is ready to present in many ways, both live and virtually, but it can always get better. A speech is seasoned with live performance and opportunity. It’s very similar to presenting headline music concerts, which I’ve also done through the years. Consistent rehearsal, evaluation and then the courage to step out on a stage to present is what it takes for any presentation to be as good as it can get.
When You Have a Nightmare
When a nightmare of unpreparedness does occur, it could be a wake-up call for a future occurrence. Do you need to create a plan, establish a routine or systematically review and practice? Those principles can be applied to many areas of both life and business. Minimize the nightmares but use those times to propel you forward with preparedness!
When a nightmare of unpreparedness does occur, it could be a wake-up call.
Thought Leader, Keynote Speaker, Author
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