Are you anxious, worried, uneasy or apprehensive about your money, your job, getting sick or an upcoming presentation? You’re not alone. Dr. Richard Zinbarg, chairman of the Northwestern University Psychology Department, said, “Just about all of us have some levels of anxiety and worry.”
Good. You’re normal. Now, how do you handle your anxiety? As a speaker and a public speaking coach, there are three anxiety questions I’m often asked: “What should I do if I forget a key point? How can I deliver a presentation without embarrassing myself? or I get so nervous during a presentation. What should I do?”
As you know, anxiety is running rampant these days. The COVID-19 virus is a worldwide threat. You don’t know what to expect, you don’t know when “normal” will return and you definitely don’t want to get attacked by that killer virus. What should you do?
If you’ve ever felt anxious—about a presentation or a deadly disease—there are four steps you can take to reduce your nervousness and anxiety. Are you worried about COVID-19? Are you anxious about an upcoming presentation? Here’s the four-step prescription I give my clients. It helps them feel calm and in control:
Step 1 – ACCEPT: Accept that this is a challenging situation and you’re in the middle of it. If you’re planning a presentation, anticipate that something can wrong. For example, if you’re worried about forgetting a key point, keep reminders nearby (an outline or bullet points) to keep you on track. Accept that problems are likely to happen. Anticipate them and be prepared.
Step 2 – REFRAME: If you’re in a stressful situation, reframe the way you look at it. Look for a silver lining. On the one hand, COVID-19 is a killer virus. On the other hand, this crisis is ushering in a new wave of innovation, compassion and change. Instead of looking at the situation as all bad, see it as a challenge you can handle. Is your heartbeat racing, are your palms sweaty, is your breathing shallow before a presentation? Reframe the way you look at those symptoms and tell yourself “I’m excited”—not “I’m doomed”!
Step 3 – SEARCH: Search for solutions. Look for ways to prevent the problem from happening again or look for ways to bounce back quickly. Be resourceful and resilient. Eric Barker, author of the book, “Barking Up the Wrong Tree,” says, “To pass this test we must stay calm while finding a workaround…” If you make an embarrassing mistake during a presentation, stay calm, work around it, then move on. Stay calm and carry on!
Step 4 – STEP BACK: After your presentation or the COVID-19 pandemic is over, step back from the situation and ask one question, “How can I do better the next time?” If you need help debriefing after a virtual presentation, get a trusted friend, coach or mentor to help you identify ways you can perform better. Then, step back and start practicing better coping skills.
What should you do the next time you are anxious? Accept, reframe, search, and step back. Try this four-step prescription to move from feeling anxiety, worry and apprehension to feeling calm and in control. It helps my clients, and it may work for you, too.
For more strategies to project the image of a calm, confident and in control leader during your business presentations, check out the Better Speaking Skills Newsletter. You’ll get game-changing videos and practical advice. Sign up for this free resource at https://betterspeakingskills.us/