A Presentation State of Mind

By Heather Baldwin

When it’s time to create a sales presentation, what goes through your mind? Do you find yourself thinking negative thoughts, such as how bad you are at coming up with creative titles? Or are your thoughts more positive, along the lines of: My last presentation was great, so I’m sure this one will be too. Whether your inner dialogue or self-talk is positive or negative can have an enormous influence on the quality of the presentation you create, say Brad McRae and David Brooks, authors of The Seven Strategies of Master Presenters (Career Press, 2004).

McRae and Brooks cite a series of studies on creativity that divided students into two groups – those previously identified as being creative and those previously identified as uncreative. Both groups were given various creativity tests and asked to solve problems while thinking aloud. The results? The creative students emitted significantly more self-appreciating and task-appreciating statements – in other words positive self-talk – while the uncreative students tended to dwell on the negative. When the uncreative students were trained to change their self-talk from negative to positive, they made significant increases in originality, flexibility and divergent thinking.

How can you apply these findings to your sales presentation? Start by analyzing your thinking as you create a presentation. Write down each of your positive and negative self-statements at various points throughout the creation process and take a look at them when you’re done. If they’re mostly negative, McRae and Brooks offer a three-step plan for changing your inner dialogue to positive self-talk.

  • Step 1: Say stop silently to yourself when you notice you are becoming distracted or negative.
  • Step 2: Think of your task in relation to a significant, negative world event to put things in perspective.
  • Step 3: Reverse your thought process. If you’re thinking how much you dislike presenting, you might tell yourself: Well, I didn’t like tomatoes or spinach either at first, but I like them now. Get your thinking on a positive track and you’ll unleash the creativity you didn’t think you had.