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Managing anxiety in presentations

Managing anxiety in presentations. Colin Neville. Anxiety and public speaking. The specific fear of public speaking is called Glossophobia It can affect many people: some estimates put it at 75% of the population

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Managing anxiety in presentations

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  1. Managing anxiety in presentations Colin Neville

  2. Anxiety and public speaking • The specific fear of public speaking is called Glossophobia • It can affect many people: some estimates put it at 75% of the population • Comedian, Jerry Seinfeld, once said that at a funeral, most people would rather in be in the coffin than giving the eulogy! • But some anxiety before any presentation is normal and positive, as it can help you to stay focused, alert, and not take your audience for granted • However, the severity of the condition can vary and is determined by the context; some public speaking situations are more threatening than others. • There are often one or more of six aggravating factors:

  3. Six aggravating factors

  4. Aggravating factors • Penalty: social embarrassment; loss of marks; career penalties • Preparation: dissatisfaction with your level of preparation can aggravate the risk • Comfort with audience: how you feel about your audience – or you perceive they feel about you • Comfort with venue: how you feel about the place you have to deliver your presentation; how it makes you feel, e.g. intimidated; secure; comfortable etc. • Technical ability: level of technical competence about using the equipment, e.g. PowerPoint etc. • Previous experience: early attempts at public speaking were unsuccessful; people laughed at you, or you were ‘judged’ critically by others

  5. Physical manifestations Inner • Throat dry • Heart beating faster than usual • Stomach churning! Outer • Voice: tremulous, jerky; it rises a pitch, or your rapid breathing is visible and audible to the audience • Blushing • Hands shaking • Sweating • Avoidance of eye contact • Turning away from audience

  6. What the eye can’t see… • It is the outer manifestation of extreme anxiety that you need to try and manage. • The audience doesn’t know how you feel, but can see if your hands are shaking or hear if your voice is tremulous • They want you to be comfortable, as it makes them relax • If you are a student presenter, 99.9% of the audience is on your side – they sympathize with you!

  7. You can beat it! “The only way I could get over my glossophobia was to pretend that the audience was all dressed in chicken outfits!” “One tried and true formula is to imagine the audience in their underwear” (contributors to Urban Dictionary online)

  8. How to beat it (1) • If you can, get to the lecture room before the audience, rather than rushing in when they have arrived. • Arriving at the last minute, will put the focus of attention on you… • every eye will be on your every fumble of the PowerPoint or OHP!

  9. How to beat it (2) • The audience is expecting you to stand and speak to them • Confound this expectation – get them doing something in the first few minutes of your presentation • It takes all the eyes off you • Give them an exercise of some sort to do at the beginning; get them talking to each other • It gives you a chance to settle in, and makes you feel more in control

  10. How to beat it (3) • Get control of your breathing • Engage in deep and slow breathing exercises: before your presentation (and during it, if the audience are busy with an exercise)

  11. How to beat it (4) • Look good – feel good – sound good • Dr. Morton Walker, in his book The Power of Color, (chapter 3) suggests that Bluerepresents peace, tranquility, calm, stability, harmony, unity, trust, truth, confidence, conservatism, security and order • Blue is considered a ‘good business colour’ because it reflects reliability (note the School colours!).

  12. How to beat it (5) • Do you understand what you are talking about? • No? • Then you are asking for trouble! Your insecurity with the subject will manifest itself to the audience (typically, you lose eye contact with them) • You need to really understand the subject

  13. How to beat it (6) • Memorise your first line • Once presenters get started, they often begin to relax • …but don’t read from a script – use cue cards. These will help you to appear more spontaneous & natural • If you are making a professional presentation, never tell your audience that you are nervous

  14. How to beat it (7) • Positive affirmations is a technique that seems to work, providing you persist with it • People scared about presentations often have an inner voice that says “ I am going to mess this up!” • Positive affirmations are about changing the ‘inner script’. • Colin Rose (1999) promotes this technique as a way of overcoming anxiety in presentations. • Continued…

  15. Positive Affirmations • Affirmations help create a more positive self-image. • They are simply positive statements that express what you choose to become, e.g. “I am a confident public speaker”. • You repeat this affirmation, aloud or internally, over a period of time. • The affirmation influences your thoughts and behaviour. The more you repeat it, the more comfortable you feel with it. • You don’t notice the difference immediately, but the results come with time • This technique links with creative visualisation

  16. Creative Visualisation • This links with positive affirmations in that you also visualize yourself in the new, positive role you are affirming. • You visualize yourself standing confidently in front of an audience delivering a successful presentation • You imagine the sensation of feeling good, looking good, sounding good, and getting good feedback. • Top athletes and sportsmen and women frequently use this technique to help them toward success

  17. How to beat it (8) • Talk about it: to Counselling Service, Effective Learning Officer, or anyone else who will listen and advice sympathetically and constructively • Read about it: The University Counselling Service has a leaflet: ‘Anxiety and Panic Attacks’, that contains practical advice (available online) • Listento advice about it: the Counselling Service has a tape you can listen to online to help you manage your anxiety and learn to relax (see ‘Relaxation Techniques’ on their website.

  18. How to beat it (9) But above all… • Preparation (subject) • Preparation (visual aids etc) • Preparation (emotions)

  19. How to beat it (10) What are your tips? What has worked for you?

  20. References Walker, M. (1990). The Power of Color. New York: Avery Publishing Co.. Rose, C. (1999). Master it Faster: how to learn faster, make good decisions and think creatively. London: The Industrial Society.

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