9 Steps to Turning Anxiety into Positive EnergyApril 14, 2014
Last week, we explained how anxiety doesn’t have to be a hindrance to a successful presentation or a fruitful training session. Today we show you how to harness the negative feelings of anxiety and convert them to useful positive energy.
Be yourself and work within your style.
Nothing can cause pre-session jitters faster than preparing to be someone you’re not. If you’re not comfortable telling anecdotal stories to reinforce a point or throwing gum out to participants who offer good ideas, then don’t. Ask your participants to share a relevant story to reinforce your point. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to grow as a presenter. Many of the techniques effective trainers use to add fun to a workshop and reinforce learning are within your reach. But, you should make them your own and work within your own style. Trying to be the speaker you admired at the seminar you attended last week will only heighten your nervousness.
Prepare. Prepare. Prepare.
This may be the easiest way to reduce pre-session nervousness. If you know your content - really know your content - you’ll feel more confident. Some trainers feel nervous because they are unsure about what they need to accomplish or uncertain about the content. Go through all the materials. Watch the video. Check out the room and the audio-visual equipment. Think about the content within the framework of your organization. Are there any disconnects? What questions do you anticipate?
Rehearse your first five minutes - over and over again.
For some, nervousness triggers uncomfortable physical reactions like a shaky voice, wobbly knees, or sweaty palms. To combat these physical reactions, mentally rehearse the first few minutes of your session. Do so, right up until the moment you’re “on.” Knowing your first few minutes cold gives you the time you need to overcome your anxiety. And, keep in mind that the tremble in your voice or the wobble in your knees is much more noticeable to you than to any of your participants. And, understand that the physical discomfort you’re experiencing will pass - probably within the first few minutes.
Take a deep breath and smile.
Taking a deep breath (or two or three) forces you to concentrate on your breathing. Thinking about your breathing will help you regulate it and slow yourself down a bit. After inhaling and exhaling slowly, smile. Smiling is psychologically proven to help us feel better. And, the best thing about approaching your audience with a smile is that someone will probably smile in return.
Imagine your success.
Instead of thinking about all the things that might go wrong, focus your energy on your impending success. Performers of all types, athletes, and even politicians have reaped the benefits of positive mental imagery. Spend a few minutes before your session thinking about the positive response of your audience. Imagine their attentive faces, their smiles and nods, their laughs. Imagine their interest and appreciation for their opportunity to learn. And, while you’re at it, imagine them coming up to you at the end and telling you how much they learned and how glad they are that they attended your session. This is your positive mental image and yours alone. Make it all that you want it to be!
Eat healthy and sleep well.
This may sound elementary but it’s sound, practical advice. Eating a lot of junk food, drinking a lot of caffeine drinks and not getting enough sleep the evening before your presentation will add to your jitters and make your nervous stomach feel worse. No, we’re not suggesting that you need to eat tofu, wheat germ, and bean sprouts to give an effective presentation. And, yes, you can start your day with that much needed cup of coffee. But, be smart the night before. Think before you say yes to a heavy meal or a second helping and consider taking a half portion of that rich dessert. Eat light and smart before your session. Avoid high-fat foods and sugary snacks. In addition to making your nervous stomach feel worse, your energy level may take a dive. And, drink caffeine drinks cautiously. Too many may make you feel jittery and cause your throat to feel dry. Drink water instead.
Remember, only you know what you’re planning to say.
Okay, you’re prepared. Perhaps you’ve even practiced. But the idea that you might forget something or say something wrong continues to unsettle you. Keep in mind that your participants are along for the ride. They may have an understanding of the learning objectives but they don’t know your plan. They don’t know what you’re going to say or how you’re going to deliver the content. Sure, you have a responsibility to cover the content and address the learning objectives but if you do so, you really can’t do anything wrong. You may just do it differently than you planned and if so, you’ll be the only one who knows!
Enthusiastically greet attendees.
Greeting attendees may ease some of your nervousness because you’re not jumping onstage cold. So, smile, shake hands, and introduce yourself.
Enjoy helping others learn.
Watching others learn is the best part of our job as trainers. So tame that nervousness and turn it into positive energy you can use to create a safe and fun environment for learning.
Remember, practice pushes us towards perfection and eventually these steps might become routine. However, sometimes routines grow stale, dull and boring. Please come back next week where we highlight 4 Tips to Convert the Routine to Positive Energy. Thanks for stopping by…
Michele Eby works for Media Partners as a writer and training advisor. She has worked in the training and development field for more than 15 years.