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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Turn Your Anxiety into Productive Energy

By Elizabeth Peterson, Speech-language Pathologist


100% of nervous behavior can be managed as nervous anxiety can be redirected into useful and productive energy. Consider what is happening to your body during moments of stage fright.

Physical Symptoms

*Hands Shake *Knees Shake *Voice Quivers *Heart Pounds
*Loss of Breath *Breathing Becomes Shallow *Tense Muscles

Factors that Influence Anxiety

*Experiencing Ideas of not Performing Well *Fear of Failure

*Worried about Forgetting Thoughts. *Mind Goes Blank  

Why Nervous Energy Exists

When your body is under stress or experiencing fear, the brain releases a hormone called adrenalin. It does this to protect you. The hormone release is a result to the "fight of flight" response. It is a quick source of energy that assists you in the event you feel it is necessary to "fight" or take "flight" in times of emergency situations. This is how your mind and body responds to stress as it fuels you with adrenalin. Unfortunately, having a surge in adrenalin before giving a presentation is not helpful and creates physical signs of stage fright. The good news is it can be fully managed.

Real World Practice
Strategy Training

Set yourself up to be successful!
Never admit or apologize for being nervous. It will discount your credibility and leadership presence from the start. Many speakers believe their nervousness is highly visible. This is not the case. Nervousness feels intense but audience members do not notice it. The audience is there for your information and they are glad to hear you speak. ALL speakers get nervous, even the pros! When you watch other speakers are you taken away from their message because you are personally distracted by their nervous behaviors?

Never, Never, Never, have alcohol to calm you. Not even one small shot to take the edge off. You will sabotage yourself. If you are nervous with Alcohol in your system, your balance, focus and thoughts will be off and it will be noticed. If one audience member suspects that you drank there will not be enough damage control to restore your reputation.

Consider cutting back on caffeine. The caffeine will increase your symptoms of stress and give you a wired appearance.
Managing Physical Affects of Stage Fright

1. Rehearsal, Rehearsal, Rehearsal !

The more you know your material the more automatic and familiar you will be during the delivery. When you know your material, confidence will reside and you will be perceived as a reliable and credible presenter. It is reasonable to be nervous. Most people do not recognize the speaker is nervous but they do recognize when someone is poorly prepared. It is difficult to manage symptoms of stage fright when you are at the podium distracted because you now realize little preparation was allotted. Feeling thoroughly prepared about your presentation reduces nervous energy and strengthens confidence.

Successful Rehearsal

Two to three short practices are more effective than one long practice. Consider taking an hour and dividing it up into 20 or thirty-minute periods. When rehearsals are shorter, your energy levels are sharper and attention is focused. Frequent short rehearsals allows for repetition providing more opportunities to reinforce your level of skill. Longer rehearsals can cause boredom and allow your focus to shift from the task. Consider frequent short rehearsals to keep your focus sharp and reinforce your presentation so the delivery feels natural and enjoyable.

2. Breath Deeply

This will expel unwanted energy and help you relax. Visualize your relaxing breath coming in and your nervous energy going out.


3.Initiate a Greeting

Introduce yourself to audience members before you speak. The act of talking and shaking hands will burn adrenalin. In addition, it is a helpful icebreaker because you and the audience have an opportunity to interact. This creates a comfortable atmosphere for everyone.

4. Sing or Hum

Yes that's right! Using good breath support while singing burns adrenaline and provides a calming affect. It also releases endorphins allowing you to feel good. Sing anything. It doesn't matter. Happy Birthday or Ave' Maria if you chose to live dangerously. Humming can be done discreetly. Singing or humming quietly while preparing to speak will burn much adrenalin and help you feel relaxed before presenting.

5. Say Goodbye To Adrenalin

Have you ever noticed after speaking for 5 minutes your physical nervous energy significantly decreases? This is because you have burned off much of the collected adrenalin. You can literally burn it off to help manage your symptoms of stage fright. Say goodbye to a trembling voice and shaky knees forever!


Practical Approaches for Burning that Adrenalin!
March in place for 2 minutes. Do this anywhere. Find a bathroom stall for privacy and begin marching lifting your knees and arms.
Go up a flight of stairs. Many hotels and conference centers are more than one story tall.
Push against a wall. Again, use a bathroom for privacy
Complete a few isometric exercises. This type of exercise has you increase tension in a specific muscle area then release it.
A. Push your hands together firmly, then release.
B. Sit in a chair. Place your hands on the seat with your feet firmly planted on the floor. Bare down with force, and then relax.

*These exercises can also be completed discreetly in your chair while you are waiting to give your presentation.
C.Create your own combination

While waiting to speak complete a series of these strategies such as the isometric exercises while sitting followed by deep relaxing breaths. On your way to the podium, hum. Your nervous energy will be eliminated.


Mental Blocks. Push Them Aside
Much of the physical signs of stage fright become fueled by negative thoughts such as: "If I sound bad people will think I'm stupid."

"If my boss thinks I did a poor job on this I'll never get a promotion."

"What if this doesn't go well"

"What if I forget what to say?"


Successful speakers do not cloud their mind with these types of thoughts. It is counter productive and serves no purpose. Every speaker feels nervous before getting in front of a group to speak. It is natural and expected. Mental blocks and negative thinking must be terminated so you can fuel your mind with positive images and motivating thoughts to experience the success you deserve.

Breaking Down Building Blocks
1. Visualize Success
Countless studies have demonstrated the power of visualizing personal success and having a positive result. Try this- it works! Visualize yourself delivering a great presentation.

What would that look like?
Think of 2-3 specific positive results from delivering a great presentation?
This is where your focus needs to be. Take one minute before and after you practice and visualize being successful. It is realistic to visualize your presentation being well received. The moment you feel your thoughts shifting to not experiencing success, stop at once and visualize the power of success .

2. Negative Thought Stopping

The moment you experience a negative thought entering your mind stop it at once. Squash it immediately and replace it with a positive thought. Even a small negative thought such as, "I hope it goes okay." needs to be redirected. Of course you're okay. After all, you rehearsed and prepared.

3. 7 Positive Thoughts

Studies for self-esteem enhancement suggest that when someone hears an insult it takes 7 positive thoughts to undo the damage and to fully recover from the hurtful words. Telling yourself a negative thought qualifies as an insult. Next time you say, "Oh, this won't go well", replace it with 7 different positive thoughts such as:

"It will be fabulous".

"I will command my audience".

"People will realize I have expertise and look up to me".

"I will be respected".

"I will have credibility with my colleagues".

"I will experience new successes".

"Donald Trump will personally ask me to run one of his companies".

* For this exercise to work you must give yourself 7 positive statements for each negative thought that enters your mind. After this, you will be fueled with positive energy and be ready to take on the challenge.

4. Buy Yourself Something Nice

If you look good, you feel good. It's an unstoppable attitude. Before your presentation treat yourself to something new and nice. Feeling good in a sharp new outfit will bring volumes of power and confidence to your sense of delivery style.

By physically burning the anxiety and visualizing success while speaking positively to yourself, your presentation will deliver confidence, credibility and be fueled with energy. It will be a winning presentation.

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