Monday, October 19, 2009

Speaking Skills: Antianxiety

Key 4: Antianxiety

Presentation time is looming! You have worked on your mindset and intentions, planned your material out, and practiced. You have a firm grip on your content, and it’s starting to come together nicely in the time allotment. As the date and time for your actual presentation get closer, you might start to feel a familiar nervousness. Here are some techniques to reduce anxiety in the days and moments leading up to your presentation!

  • Remember your mindset techniques: The audience wants to hear what you have to say, you offer value to them with your content, and you are “keyed up.”
  • If you tend to think in terms of worst-case scenarios, counter it by imagining the best that can happen. Take ownership of your success!
  • Before speaking, take deep, slow breaths. Inhale through your nose, hold for a second or two, and exhale through your mouth. If you practice yoga breathing, you may find those techniques useful. Focus on your breathing to calm down, slow your heart rate. Use these deep breaths to get centered before speaking. This will also help you be mindful and present in your body, which can then cut down on unconscious fidgeting, swaying, and other giveaways of your nerves!
  • Have a bottle or glass of water near you when speaking. One sign of nervousness is a dry mouth, which can, unfortunately, lead to “smacking” sounds as you try to enunciate your words. Sipping water will help you prevent this, as well as forcing you to make pauses at key points. Note that you should sip the water, not chug it--you don’t want to suddenly feel a very urgent call of nature during your presentation. Avoid dairy-based drinks before speaking, they cause a lot of mucus production and require a lot of throat-clearing.
  • Try an antianxiety acupressure technique: the thigh rub. If you’re starting to feel panicky before your presentation, discreetly place a hand (or both) on the top of your thigh. Press down with the heel of your hand, and rub from the top of your thigh down toward your knee. Repeat as necessary. This is an acupressure technique for reducing anxiety (you can search for more acupressure techniques with Google). You can’t really do it during your speech (you’ll be bobbing up and down a lot if you do), but it can work to calm you down beforehand.
  • Do you have other postures or gestures that calm you down? Employ them as necessary. For example, when I am calm and relaxed, I frequently find that my thumb is tucked between my first and second fingers. It’s an unconscious posture when I’m already relaxed. Sometimes I will deliberately do this to bring on a calming sensation. If something like this works for you, by all means, use it to your advantage!
  • A little aromatherapy (body lotion, cologne, or some other scent that won’t disturb others) can be a powerful mechanism for reducing anxiety. If I’m wearing my favorite cologne, a discreet sniff of my inner wrist brings on the delightfully peaceful feelings associated with the scent (the human sense of smell is powerfully evocative of certain emotions). Lavender and ylang ylang are particularly calming for most people.
  • Still a tad nervous? Think this: “Ok, in 10 minutes [30 minutes, 1 hour], I am done, for better or worse, and I won’t have to worry about it any more!”
  • Finally, if you are still nervous to give your speech, think of it as a performance, as if you are acting. Put on the persona of someone who is supremely confident, and then perform. Many actors are actually very shy, introverted people who feel more comfortable pretending to be someone else. You can do the same in a presentation. “Fake it ‘til you make it” has a big core of truth in it when it comes to boosting confidence. Adopt the persona of a confident speaker, and you will be the real thing before you know it.
Next key: Performance

No comments: