All eyes on ME

presentation anxiety

A million thoughts were buzzing in my head, I was standing behind the curtain reading and re-reading my script. I was the master of the ceremony tonight, all I had to do was go on the stage with a file of papers and read aloud, how difficult could that be? Anyone could do it in the blink of an eye.
But what if I wasn’t everyone, what if I faltered…

I could hear every tick of the clock on the wall, and with every tick I could feel the jitters in my stomach getting worse, I could feel my heart beating faster and faster; and my breathing became more rapid. The paper I was rehearsing from seemed wet- my hands here sweating.

Finally it was time, and I was being pushed onto the stage. My legs were shivering with every step I took. I tried to take one step at a time and not trip over my own foot so I looked at the ground while walking to the podium. I don’t remember being in control for much of what happened once I stepped on the stage. I looked up at my audience.

A room full of strange people all looking up to me, all waiting to judge every word I say, every mistake I make… A room full of a million people (yes the number is exaggerated but it felt like a million)

And I was blank, someone screamed from behind me in anger, “Just read what is written I am sure you, college topper, are educated enough to read”… And I couldn’t, it was a slight blur initially so I couldn’t read. Once I did read, I introduced the professor in front as a teacher of ammunition instead of animation.
I sounded like a robot- flat, monotonic, no emotion, and no confidence.

After the first stanza I felt a hand over my shoulder and someone else was standing next to me reading the script for the first time with such enthusiasm like they had written it, like it was theirs.
This happened when I was in college

Today I am the first female manager of our magazine “ABC”

But that’s today,  last month on the contrary I was Asst. to manager. Fearing it as I was I received a call from my superiors which was long overdue. Time and again my juniors became my superiors and although I felt sad, I neither complained nor tried to climb the ladder any further…
I had resigned to the fact that this is the step; the designation I belong to, it’s where I stay.
But then I got the call, I was asked to prepare a presentation for the annual meet of the board of directors.
I froze
A colleague and a friend of mine who I had helped climb the ladder and be my superior, set this opportunity up for me. She came to my table to congratulate me but anxious as I was I admitted my fears to her and she told me to consult a life coach that they can help…
And in a month they did, step by step through the entire process

STEP 1. Content Preparation

a. The first aspect of that is to collect the matter on the subject that needs to be presented.
b. Second, is to make it interesting.
Even while presenting very dry material, one can think of ways to make it more accessible and engaging. If it’s appropriate, make some room for laughter. Throwing in a few jokes can ease the tension and relax the audience.
c. I was then asked to consider the needs, knowledge, and expectations of the board members who were going to be my audience.
Keeping these in mind the content was made… I was proud and motivated

STEP 2 PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE
a. I recorded a video of myself giving the presentation. And kept re-presenting and re-recording until satisfied with my own performance.
When on stage, I just had to remember how great I looked in the video, and tell myself that I can do even better.
b. I then practiced with my German Shephard, she was very supportive sat looking at me with curiosity and pride throughout my presentation, I know I sound stupid but I think she understood everything I said
c. My parents and my brother were just as supportive, they weren’t interested but they sat there listening to me, so I could practice
d. For the next step my friend was on cloud 9 and organized a meet with a couple of our friends who were supportive and listened to me and helped me gain more and more confidence.

STEP 3 Let go what is NOT in my control.
what about people in audience. Who do not have patience or kindness for my mistakes?
Well, no matter how hard I try, I can’t control every aspect of the performance. Sooner or later, something will go wrong. And I needed to learn to improvise during my practice.
The projector or microphone might stop working. It’s not about being perfect- it’s about being able to respond to any situation.
It is important to not act startled or lost if something unexpected happens. The audience will only be able to tell if something went wrong if I make it obvious.

STEP 4 What’s in my control?
My thoughts are.
Keeping an index card with motivational phrases in my pocket and  focus on all of the benefits that the performance will give me instead of going on thinking of all of the fear and anxiety that I may be feeling.
What worked for me is to offend the negative talk. Instead of worrying about, “What if I falter?”
I changed that into positive talk like, “What if I am great at this?”
Think about the worst case scenario. What if I faltered… I would not get promoted now but I was anyways content with my position and I can still try again later if I want- I have nothing to loose and what I might even be risking is worth it, for if I never take the first step I never had what I have to risk it in the first place. Once I did this, I realized that the worst case scenario isn’t really that bad.
The more time and effort I spend anticipating positive outcomes, the better prepared I’ll be to respond that way in the real situation.
Sometimes it’s okay to be a little nervous. If one is anxious of making a mistake, then he/she tends be more careful. It’s the overly confident people that make the most mistakes.
If a mistake is made, just move on or make a joke (or both). You are human and the audience knows you are human. Humans mess up once in a while. It’s okay.
My favorite take away from my Life-Coach?
“If you mess up a step while dancing, no one will ever know, unless you stop. Same with the script, the audience doesn’t know it, so don’t worry if you miss one line, and have to improvise, just keep going.”

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