Is my face red? Is my voice wavering? How will I survive this presentation with everyone looking at me? Nearly every one of us has had one or more of these thoughts when under pressure to perform in the workplace as we lead a team, give a pitch, or even speak in front of others.
These moments don’t have to be horrible. They are moments where you can learn both about yourself and how to handle the symptoms of performance anxiety. Performing in the workplace is a time when you can showcase your knowledge and skills (after all, you are there because someone believes
in you and your contribution).
There are many things you can do to help yourself manage performance anxiety and flourish. I love these strategies as a starting place:
Breathe. Try an approach such as: Inhale for 4 counts, hold for 6, and exhale for 8 counts. Repeat this a handful of times to help yourself centre your thoughts and racing heartbeat.
Centre yourself. Consider grounding exercises to bring your attention back to slowing down your thoughts and identifying what is happening with your body. Try a quick body scan. Feel your feet on the ground. Where are you tense? Where are your thoughts? Then once composed, tune into your body without judgment, slow your breath. Look around you, while staying aligned with your breathe identify and name: 1 thing you taste, 2 things you smell, 3 things you hear, 4 things you feel, and 5 things you see.
Focus on you. Remember everyone is different in how they experience performance anxiety. Comparisons are not helpful. Look and connect with your audience. Sometimes audience body language can be difficult to gauge. A hint to take away this pressure is to focus your vision just above the shoulder of an audience member and focus on the wall just past them. Over time you can connect and look into the audience members eyes.
Be aware of your body. Identify what your body does under pressure. Label your patterns. Then use this to establish a plan for how you are going to approach the reaction(s) over time.
Practice. Volunteer to lead meetings or co-present with a colleague to help you to be more comfortable when addressing a crowd. Remember to smile. This helps with being calm, centred, and connects you to your audience.
Have confidence in your knowledge and skill set. If you are thrown a curly question, there is nothing wrong in saying “I’ll get back to you on that” . This way you are allowing yourself to compose your thoughts, follow up and continue to connect at a later stage.
Be kind to yourself. Small steps, mindful goal setting, and the power of positive self-talk are your friend when you are learning to manage your performance anxiety.