Tomorrow you have a big presentation looming.
It’s a big presentation for a reason: the board of director will be attending and if they are pleased with your performance, you can get a promotion. But if you don’t, you may even get a demotion.
Some of you may feel good, excited, and confident.
However, some others of you may not be able to feel that way.
Instead, you’re feeling nervous, agitated, and worried and you get stressed thinking about tomorrow.
Will you do well tomorrow? Will you able to deliver? What if something goes wrong?
I myself often feel like that, especially if I’m presenting my idea or having a meeting with someone that I never met before.
It’s not a feeling that I like to experience. I’m sure you feel the same.
But, you don’t have to worry.
Managing stress in the work place isn’t difficult, including this kind of stress. You just have to know how.
That kind of feeling actually have a name, it is performance anxiety or most people like to call it stage fright.
It is when you feel overly worried and anxious before performing a specific action.
It is a very common stress or anxiety. Actually, according to National Institutes of Mental Health, roughly 75% of world population admit to have fear of speaking in public.
Speaking in public doesn’t always mean speaking in the podium to hundreds of people. For some people, it can also means presenting in a room with less than 10 people or even a face to face conversation with someone who has more power than them, like their boss.
And if you are an office worker, then you are most likely familiar with this kind of situation in the workplace. You have staff meeting, presentation to client, and God knows your boss likes to call you to his office, either to ask your opinion or to scold you.
This one type of stress in the workplace is usually not severe. It only happens when you are about to perform, whether in meeting, presentation, or interview.
Nonetheless, it still can affect your work and your performance.
When you’re stressed, you tend to lose focus from the important part of your work and instead focus on your stress feeling. And losing focus from your work can ends in disaster – either you’re not performing 100% or maybe you’re missing some detail.
But, don’t worry! I have good news for you.
Performance anxiety may disturb you from performing, but it doesn’t determine the result – as long as you manage it right!
Managing stress in the workplace, including for performance anxiety, isn’t impossible. Want to know how? Continue reading!
If you have stage fright, it never goes away. But then I wonder: is the key to that magical performance because of the fear? (Stevie Nicks)
Control your mind
Actually, the key to get rid of performance anxiety is closer than we think. It is in our own mind.
Anxiety comes from thinking too much about the possibilities of your performance going wrong. But, if you can control your mind from wandering too far and focus your task in hand instead, then you no stress or anxiety will be able to take it from you!
How to control your mind? There are several ways to do it. First, your mind has to know what you will be doing. You can achieve this by planning your performance thoroughly. Second, stop your mind from wandering too far away from your main objective to perform in the best way possible.
You can achieve this by stopping yourself from overthinking. Third, relieve the burden from your mind by putting perspective into your mind about your performance. To achieve this, learn to see the bigger picture behind your performance. More about them below!
Plan your performance
This one sounds like no brainier but you’d be surprised when you realize how many times you actually perform your work without planning.
First and foremost, you have to understand the material you prepare – whether it’s presentation or report. Make sure you understand every point in there.
Next, understand your audience. Look at their background and understand their role at the meeting so you can see from their perspective and give them the answer or the solution that they need.
Some of us are not technology savvy and sometimes we struggle even with notebook that isn’t familiar with us. If you are presenting, make sure you check the equipment you’ll be using first before the meeting or the presentation start.
Once you know what you will do in the meeting, you’ll be less anxious because it won’t be a completely new territorial for you. Want to be even less stressed? Rehearse the whole meeting in your head!
If you want an even smoother presentation in your meeting, maybe you’d like to spend some time learning to polish your speech and conversation skill.
Words can be a powerful tool in a meeting and presentation. We recommend a book that can show you what speech to deliver in important meeting, Crucial Conversations.
Best way to conquer stage fright is to know what you are talking about (Michael H Mescon)
Sometimes when we’re preparing our presentation, we go all the way until we overthink it. Recognize the symptoms and when you realize you’ve been thinking more than necessary, draw a line.
The symptoms of overthinking is:
- A bad moment ruin the whole day for you. For example, your boss just tell you to be more careful, but you spend the rest of the day feeling like you’re not good enough to make a good worker or question yourself why you can’t be born as a careful person.
- Spend more time thinking things than doing things. For example, you already have several scenarios on how tomorrow’s meeting would likely going but you haven’t finished your presentation slide.
- Your mind blanked out for time to time. For example, you’re suddenly snapped out of your thought but you can’t remember what was it the last thing that you’re thinking.
While planning in detail is necessary, you also need to draw a line until when you should care about them. Overthinking surely will only make you more anxious.
The line you should draw is when you start to imagine how things might go wrong. Instead of thinking the many ways you can blow your own performance, focus only on the material.
If you can’t get rid them from your thoughts, recall the most pleasurable thing you sense in the last 24 hours. Maybe you just saw a very picturesque scenery in the internet, maybe you just hear an amazing piece of music, or maybe you just eat a very delectable food.
Sensory memory is a very good distraction from negative thinking because your mind can recreate the sensation in a very clear way.
See the bigger picture
The biggest factor for your stress is probably the stake at this particular meeting. Maybe your promotion is determined from this performance. Or worse, it’s your demotion that is being determined.
You can lessen this burden by imagining yourself a year later, two years later, or so on. And then, look back at this meeting. Will this one meeting make a serious impact on your life? The answer is most likely, no, this meeting is just another part of your life.
Lorde, the Grammy Award winning singer once shared her way of overcoming stage fright by thinking that her performance is just another part of her life. She keep telling herself before performance, ‘The lights will be on like always. People will be cheering like always. And I will be okay like always.”
So, no need to be burdened or intimidated by it and just do your best.
Don’t think presentation as performance
When you think about your presentation as performance, your mind will quickly link it to performance-related emotion – nervousness when people watching you, waiting judgment from the audience, and such. These makes you think that performance – and therefore your presentation – is a scary public speaking events with important audience.
But, if you stop thinking it as performance and instead think it as daily workplace job, your mind will associate it with your daily workplace related emotion – which means almost nothing. You don’t get nervous when you write email or make phone calls, right?
With this, you can spare some unnecessary nerves.
Distract yourself physically
As always, distract yourself from ovethinking by getting physical is a good idea.
Massage is known to relieve tensed muscles and nerves, and self massage works as fine as getting a massage from a therapist. Maybe not as enjoyable, but the effect is the same.
Start from your face by tapping your finger on the forehead and temple and continue by pressing your thumb to your jaw line as you trace them down to your chin.
Continue below by pressing your shoulder with your hands, spot by spot. Move your hand even lower to your upper back. Press gently and rub the spot with circular motion.
Other easy exercise is by applying pressure on your palms. This works because your palm is a panel full of nerves that connects to your entire body. Applying pressure on you palms means you’re stimulating almost all of the organ in your body.
Stand in a doorway and press both of your palms against the doorframe on each side. Inhale deeply and hold your breath as you increase the pressure on your palms.
You’ll gradually feel warmth on your face, head, and neck. Release your breath and repeat.
Little things that help
Sometimes, even after the two grand stress relief methods above, you still find yourself anxious and can’t calm down. Then, it’s time to soothe your nerves with little things that can give you reassurance.
Did you know?
There is scientific word for fear of public speaking, it is glossophobia.
The number of women and men who have gassophobia is roughly equal, but more men seek treatment for this phobia compared to women.
Glossophobia is actually common even among prominent public figure. Singer Adele and investor Warren Buffet admit to suffer this phobia.
Breathe helps. When you’re stressed and anxious, you unconsciously start to breathe faster. Return your breath to its normal speed by taking a deep breath with this method called 4-7-8 method. It means you have to inhale oxygen in 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and exhale in 8 seconds.
When you breathe slowly, your nervous state will take that as a cue that everything is under control and there is no need to activate the ‘fight or flight’ anymore.
Discard coffee and drink tea
Coffee help you focus when you work, but when you’re about to perform, coffee can make you jittery because caffeine has this effect that makes your heart beat faster.
Instead, you need drink that can calm you down. A certain drink that can give you this effect is herbal tea, particularly chamomile. Chamomile tea is famous for traditional medication for anxiety and insomnia, but other kind of herbal tea like peppermint, lemon balm, or sage is also fine if you can’t find chamomile.
Have a shot of diluted alcohol
I know it’s a bad idea
Do you know that thing as simple as your posture can affect your confidence?
A study published in European Journal of Social Psychology in October 2009 have participant in two group. In one group, they are asked to sit up straight and the other to slouch forward. After that, they’re asked to list traits about themselves.
Surprisingly, the group with ‘sit up straight’ posture more likely to list positive things about themselves, compared to the ‘slouch forward’ group whose list more likely contain negative traits.
And then, when you’re stressed, you’ll find your posture more likely to slump, that will put pressure to your spine and lungs, making you feel constricted and hard to breathe. You’re making yourself small as not to attract attention.
Fix your posture by sitting up straight. This posture will open your chest so you can breathe easier. After that, complete your confidence boost by puffing your chest out and putting both of your hands on your waist – like Wonder Woman!
Hold this pose for two minutes right before you go to your meeting and you’ll find yourself feeling more powerful than ever.
In my opinion, the only way to conquer stage fright is to get up on stage and play. Every time you play another show it gets better and better. (Taylor Swift)
Ready to win your performance?
Now, after you follow the guide to calm your performance anxiety, even in the workplace, you can go confidently to the meeting room and make your winning presentation!
Maybe at first this method seems like a hassle but if you keep doing them before meeting, it will be easier next time and you’ll find yourself automatically doing them all the time.
Do you have performance anxiety of some sort? Are they affecting your work and cause you even more stress in the workplace? How do you cope with them?
Share your story with us, we’d like to hear from you!