Guila Muir

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How Does Nostalgia Improve Presentation Skills?

What’s potentially more effective than using affirmations or self-talk to build your confidence as a presenter? Nostalgia, until recently thought of as a psychological disorder, has been found to be a powerful and effective tool. Dr. Constantine Sedikides and his team, from the University of Southampton, UK, has found that nostalgia helps to build resilience, mental fortitude, and social connectedness.

What great tools for presenters!

What is Nostalgia?

Sedikides describes nostalgia as a “wellspring of meaning that acts as a buffer against existential threats.” Our internal stress system often reacts to presenting as if it were an existential threat: our heart races and breathing becomes shallow as we prepare to defend ourselves. Nostalgia offers us the  “perfect inbuilt neurological defense mechanism”.

Nostalgia, for presenters, is not about our external behavior. In fact, continually bringing up your own memories will probably alienate your audience. Instead, using nostalgia as an emotional foundation can provide presenters with inner strength and resilience. Sedikides says, “Nostalgia is like an inexhaustible bank account which is there for you if you want to withdraw from it.”

How Can Nostalgia Help Me Present?

If, as the researchers claim, nostalgia “is like a vitamin and an antidote to nervousness and fear”, how can we put it to use?

Pre-Presentation: Identify a Memory

In a relaxed state, days or weeks before your “gig”, close your eyes. Breathe deeply. Recall a time when you were truly happy. This memory can be either personal or professional. It doesn’t have to relate to presenting. Perhaps you were surrounded by friends, receiving an award, or just relaxing with your cat at your side.

Once you identify the memory, really feel it. What colors, sounds, and smells do you recall? Where in your body did you feel the happiness? Did your body move around, or was it still? Allow yourself to accept and truly feel that level of happiness. You are building your nostalgia medicine.

Return to this memory several times as you prepare for your presentation.

It’s Showtime: Recall the Memory

Five to ten minutes before starting to present, find a private place (bathroom stall?). Close your eyes, breathe, and recall that familiar, happy memory. Allow it to flood you.

By truly allowing your memory to fill you, you are taking your nostalgia medicine. And it’s good for you!

Next: Step out. Begin your presentation, feeling fortified, grounded, and resilient.

(Interested in learning more about the power of nostalgia? Read the research.)




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