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Part I: Assessing Your Skills > Tips for Reducing Anxiety

Chapter 3. Tips for Reducing Anxiety

  1. Organize Lack of organization is one of the major causes of anxiety. Later in this book you will learn a simple technique for organizing your presentation. Knowing that your thoughts are well organized will give you more confidence, which will allow you to focus energy into your presentation.

  2. Visualize Imagine walking into a room, being introduced, delivering your presentation with enthusiasm, fielding questions with confidence, and leaving the room knowing you did a great job. Mentally rehearse this sequence with all the details of your particular situation, and it will help you focus on what you need to do to be successful.

  3. Practice Many speakers rehearse a presentation mentally or with just their lips. Instead, you should practice standing up, as if an audience were in front of you, and use your visual aids (if you have them.) At least two dress rehearsals are recommended. If possible, have somebody critique the first one and/or have it videotaped. Watch the playback, listen to the critique, and incorporate any changes you feel are required before your final practice session. There is no better preparation than this.

    Carol is an account executive with a software company. She has been asked to present the sales figures for her region at the company’s national sales meeting. Her colleague Jack is finishing his remarks and in two minutes she will have to stand up and make her presentation. She is experiencing extreme anxiety at a time when she needs to be focused and collected.

    Carol’s situation is quite common. If you experience anxiety immediately before speaking, try some of the following exercises next time you’re waiting for your turn to stand up and speak.

  4. Breathe When your muscles tighten and you feel nervous, you may not be breathing deeply enough. The first thing to do is to sit up, erect but relaxed, and inhale deeply a number of times.

  5. Focus on relaxing Instead of thinking about the tension—focus on relaxing. As you breathe, tell yourself on the inhale, “I am” and on the exhale, “relaxed.” Try to clear your mind of everything except the repetition of the “I am-relaxed” statement and continue this exercise for several minutes.

  6. Release tension As tension increases and your muscles tighten, nervous energy can get locked into the limbs. This unreleased energy may cause your hands and legs to shake. Before standing up to give a presentation, it is a good idea to try to release some of this pent up tension by doing a simple, unobtrusive isometric exercise.

    Starting with your toes and calf muscles, tighten your muscles up through your body finally making a fist (i.e., toes, feet calves, thighs, stomach, chest, shoulders, arms, and fingers). Immediately release all of the tension and take a deep breath. Repeat this exercise until you feel the tension start to drain away. Remember, this exercise is to be done quietly so that no one knows you’re relaxing!

    Andrew is an accountant with a major financial organization. When he gives presentations he gets very nervous. He sweats, his hands tremble, his voice becomes a monotone (and at times inaudible). He also fidgets with items, such as a pen, and looks at this notes or the overhead projector screen, not at his audience. He can barely wait to finish and return to his seat.

    Andrew’s plight is not uncommon. You may not have all of these symptoms, but you can probably relate to some of them. The following techniques will help you in situations where you get nervous while speaking.

  7. Move Speakers who stand in one spot and never gesture experience tension. In order to relax, you need to release tension by allowing your muscles to flex. If you find you are locking your arms in one position when you speak, then practice releasing them so that they do the same thing they would if you were in an animated one-on-one conversation. You can’t gesture too much if it is natural.

    Upper body movement is important, but moving with your feet can serve to release tension as well. You should be able to take a few steps, either side-to-side or toward the audience. When speaking from a lectern, you can move around the side of it for emphasis (if you have a moveable microphone). This movement will help release your tension and never fail to draw the audience into the presentation. If you can’t move to the side of the lectern, an occasional half-step to one side will help loosen muscle tension.

  8. Make eye contact with the audience Give your presentation to one person at a time. Relate with your audience as individuals. Look in peoples’ eyes as you speak. Connect with them. Make it personal and personable. The eye contact should help you relax because you become less isolated from the audience, and learn to react to their interest in you.



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