Elizabethkuhnke's Blog

Overcoming Performance Anxiety

Posted on: September 15, 2010

When we talk about “being nervous” what we’re really saying is, “I’m afraid.”  But what are we afraid of?

 In his book “You are the Message” Roger Ailes tells us that a recent poll of human fears revealed that twice as many people were more afraid of speaking in public than of dying.  The fear of failure and embarrassment keep people from doing certain things in life, including speaking in front of an audience.

The most common symptoms of “stage fright” are increased heartbeat, a fluttery stomach, sweating, trembling, dry mouth, short or gasping breathing and difficulty in speaking.  You might not experience all of these symptoms at once, but even the most experienced speakers feel some of them some of the time.  What it takes to overcome this fear is courage – the ability to take action in the presence of fear.  And in order to have courage you must have a strong sense of personal worth.

Performance anxiety results when self-confidence wanes.  You fear that all of your weaknesses will become apparent the moment you stand up to speak.  As those times ask yourself: “What is important now?  What does my audience need or want to know now?  Why was I asked to speak about this subject?  How can I best communicate to this audience?”

 By asking yourself these questions you have put the situation into perspective and can get on with your job.  Overcoming performance anxiety is a mental process that requires practice.  Repeat to yourself, “I have a right to be here.  What I have to say is of value to this audience.  I am the one best suited to talk about this subject”  By saying these words to yourself you might discover that you’re actually better than you thought!

 If, however, you still feel anxious before making a presentation, ask yourself: “What is the absolute worst thing that can happen? (You could faint.  The audience could leave, laugh, throw their dirty socks at you.  You could be asked to leave the stage. You’ll lose your job and will never get another one.)  Then ask yourself: “How likely is any of that to happen, even if I do momentarily blank out?”  You’ll see that your fears have been exaggerated out of proportion.  By fantasising the worst and knowing it won’t happen you’re able to put the situation into perspective and see that in terms of life’s pattern this one presentation is not that critical.

 Before you begin your talk, remind yourself that you are the authority on the subject.  Knowing that, you can draw on a positive energy and approach the speaking engagement with confidence.

 Not only is it normal to experience nervousness before speaking to an audience, it is good.  It gives one a heightened sensation of energy and the conviction that what you say and do in front of your audience really counts.

 The single greatest antidote to fear is preparation.

For more information on presentation skills please visit www.kuhnkecommunication.com

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3 Responses to "Overcoming Performance Anxiety"

As someone who struggles with this in some situations (I am perfectly comfortable teaching a class, but being on stage giving a presentation in front of adults is hard). What I have noticed is that I am not afraid of failing or embarrassment, but I am afraid of the actual moment of presentation. The feeling of adrenaline pumping through my veins at high speeds and the feeling of dizziness I get ARE the worst that can happen. I want nothing to do with that feeling. Any other tips that might help (besides, of course, a belt of whiskey before I go up)?

Stay away from the whiskey and breathe from your boots. Visualise how you want the situation to be. Feel the adrenaline working for you. Remember, the energy that results from fear and excitement are similar. It’s a matter of what you call it that makes the difference.

Warm regards
Elizabeth Kuhnke
Diamond Polisher

Thanks. I will stay off the sauce and try this approach!

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