Thousands of presentations later and I still get that pit in my stomach every time I step on stage to present. Though I wish I could say after a while it just goes away the reality is that presentation anxiety is an emotion most great presenters experience. I would argue it is completely normal for someone to experience anxiety before stepping in front of a group of people. We are after all humans and the opinion of our peers matters deeply to us.
The difference though between an average presenter who is overwhelmed by the anxiety of a presentation and the best presenters in the world is that when they anxiety comes; the best presenters know how to deal with it. How to leverage the anxious energy and put it to use in their presentation. Here are three simple tips to harnessing your presentation anxiety.
According to psychology today breathing is a vital piece in harnessing our anxiety and using to propel us forward. However, it is important to know what kind of breathing we should be doing to fully harness our anxiety. We have all heard the saying take deep breaths. It is usually used when a person is struggling to get enough air or is experiencing panic of some kind. While taking deep breaths is important, according to anxiety today it is more important to take slow breaths when experiencing anxiety. Slowing down your breathing slows your heartrate and calms your nervous system which is responsible for your fight or flight response. It will help you appear calm and collected as you present your content.
As a national level athlete, I learned the importance of visualization when it comes to harnessing anxious energy. According to an article written by the Calm Clinic visualization is the act of imagining yourself in a peaceful and safe environment – a place that makes you relaxed and happy. Though at first visualization can feel awkward and unnatural it is powerful when it comes to calming and harnessing anxious feelings. Visualization acts as break for the anxiety, it gives you a quick retreat before stepping on stage to deliver your presentation.
I understand this one sounds strange but stick with me. Anxiety causes a lot of nervous energy to run through our body. This is in large part due to the adrenaline that is being produced when our body is experiencing anxiety. What happens is all that energy needs an outlet. It is why you see people’s hands shake when their nerves are high, or a person that can’t sit still in the middle of a panic attack. Simply put you’re their bodies are being overrun with energy. That is why if our goal is to harness our anxiety rather than fall victim to it, we have to move when we feel it coming on. Go for a walk, jump up or down, maybe even grab a jump rope and jump for a few minutes. As you begin to move the excess energy will leave your body. You will start to feel calmer and more prepared to step in front of your audience.
Presentation anxiety is real, and it is powerful. However, it does not have to be crippling. Putting into practice these three simple tips will help you to not just overcome presentation anxiety, but instead to harness it for the good of your presentation.
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