Back in 2006 psychologist Stuart Brody and his team from Paisley University monitored how to control blood pressure in a group of 24 women and 22 men after they had undergone a stressful event. The most stressful situation the researchers could think to put them in was delivering a presentation.
The research findings concluded that participants who were found to have less heightened levels of blood-pressure and a speedier return to normal once the ‘ordeal by presentation’ was over, had undergone penetrative sex within the previous two weeks. The resultant stimulation of multiple nerve endings and the hormone release during that act were deemed crucial to the findings. Later research by social psychologists found that a thorough going over of the act of presentation in the hours just before its performance worked equally well.
It only takes one letter to go from the word de-stress to distress. That letter, also happens to be the personal pronoun, I. “Aye,” and “there’s the rub.”
The reason that presentations are so stressful is that to deliver them, presenters have to confront their own existential angst. The best lover, the cuddliest furry pet, the finest meal or the most advanced stress-busting medication cannot prevent anyone from getting snared in that particular Sargasso Sea. The only way to bring any human endeavour to a successful conclusion is to stick doggedly to a course of repetition A look at the routine of any world class athlete in solo events should help to make that point more strongly. No matter how many times they have won, they know that if they don’t practise enough in advance of every single public appearance they won’t be able to deliver the results expected of them. But the most important for us to notice is that when they practice they are alone.
All genius is based on rehearsing over and over again. If getting it wrong to get it right was good enough for Mozart, surely it should be good enough for us.
The processes of thoughtful breathing, out loud repetition of words, upright rather than uptight bodily stance, physical alertness all strengthen and confirm well-constructed ideas. They also elicit chemical changes within the brain.
Those changes may not create the outlandish highs that chemical substances bring about, but they consistently avoid the gobbledegook and searing lows that many an unprepared presenter gets tipped into.
And there is yet a further good reason for committing to practising well. Audiences encountered after doing so give off far more affirming vibes than any good-lay. Such vibes not only impel well prepared presenters to an effective conclusion but also ensure the speedy return to normal of blood pressure levels once the presentation is over.