Performance Anxiety? Here's How to Prevail

Medical Reviewer

Sweaty palms, dry mouth, shaky voice and speed-talking; they are all signs of  performance anxiety. So, how do you avoid a meltdown and tip the balance in your favor? You may think a nervous performance is the key factor in failure, but actually that isn't the case. Everyone understands why people get nervous so it's very easy to forgive as long as you've got a sturdy foundation on which to base your presentation. Here are some tips:

Preparation is key.  I've come across a lot of sound advice about the importance of preparation. If you've got a 20-minute pitch it makes sense to plan what you've got to say and then to time yourself to make sure you rush or overrun. Some people argue it's not good to over-prepare (whatever that means) but putting all your eggs in one basket can easily throw you out. For example, what happens if your boss says he has to leave early and can you cut your presentation to 10 minutes? What if your laptop decides to pack up and your lovingly crafted slides can't be shown? I think it's good to anticipate major issues like time changes or equipment failure. These are the most common problems for presenters and even the most skilled person can be caught out if they haven't made a contingency plan. Okay, things may not go as smoothly or slickly as you might have liked but you can still get a decent message across if you've done a forward thinking.

Decrease worries by declaring them.  Here's an idea you may not have come across - but it works. During the day/night/hours before your presentation write down the issues that are worrying you. The problem with worry is that it diminishes our ability to focus. Insight into your worry pressure points comes about by declaring them, and believe it or not, simply  writing  them down can really help. The cynical amongst you may think 'I know what's worrying me thanks, I don't need to write it down,' and yet you are reading this post for guidance and advice So my advice is - don't dismiss it until you've tried it.

See yourself as others see you.  This isn't everyone's idea of a plan but it's something to seriously consider. Get out your video camera or your cellphone and take a movie of yourself practicing the presentation. It's not easy looking at yourself, but it is insightful. Once you get past the, 'do I really sound like that?' stage you'll see the benefits' For example, you may not realize how often you repeat words or phrases, how quickly or slowly you speak, or the fact that your  body language  is shouting stress! Presentational skills are rarely so natural that improvements can't be made. The more you practice the easier it will become.

Perspective is important.  We do presentations for different reasons. Whether your presentation is for a job interview, or a part of your everyday work, the fact is someone may always be a bit slicker or a bit more professional. It's not the end of the world if yours isn't as good. There's always another time and like all skills presentation skills improve the more you practice. Professional guidance from coaches or other specialists is readily available via a search engine. Any resource you feel will give you an edge or improve your confidence is worth considering so don't be shy about tapping into resources available to you.

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