Worktank’s Traffic Manager Kiko Toledo offers simple and successful strategies to manage anxiety and stay focused on delivering a winning performance whether in front of a live audience or a video camera.
It’s normal to be nervous. In fact, an estimated 80% of public speakers experience some form of communication-based anxiety disorder. Many famous performers and celebrities suffer from stage fright. Adele, Cher, Ozzy Osbourne, Carly Simon have all admitted they experience pre-performance jitters. Even one of the most renowned pianists Vladimir Horowitz retired early in his career due to stage fright.
So, let’s start by acknowledging that if you’re experiencing any kind of anxiety ahead of your talk, you’re in excellent company, and no amount of talent can free you from nervousness. However, there are tactics you can tap into that will minimize the effects of stage fright.
4 Ways to Calm Your Nerves Before a Virtual Presentation
Worktank’s Traffic Manager Kiko Toledo has overseen hundreds of live broadcasts in his career, and watched many performers and presenters suffer with crippling stage fright just before presenting in front of a camera or live audience. Here are his simple and successful strategies to manage anxiety and stay focused on delivering a winning performance.
Get Out of Your Own Head
Many presenters are hamstrung by imposter syndrome. This is a common, yet seldom-discussed experience in which we assume that we’re not qualified to present content to a large group, and when it comes time to stand up and deliver a presentation, we’re destined to choke and embarrass ourselves in front of our peers.
First, the obvious. If you’re tapped to present in front of a large in-person or virtual audience, accept the fact that you are the expert in the room. Recognize your internal voice as negative or positive. Allow the positive voice to live and thrive, and laugh at the negative voice when it creeps in.
Examples of negative thoughts associated with imposter syndrome include, “Why did they pick me to present this material?” or “I’m sure someone in the audience knows a lot more about this topic than I do.” Other examples include, “What if I’m called on the carpet for something I don’t know?” and “What if I make a fool of myself?”
If you experience imposter syndrome, meet it face on, take a breath, and then replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations. For example, instead of wondering why they chose you to present, repeat the phrase, “I’m the best person to deliver or represent the material,” and “I bring a wholly unique perspective and experience to my presentation.” Calm your nerves with statements like, “If I don’t know something, just own it and the audience will react graciously,” or “This audience trusts me and wants me only to succeed.”
Practice, Be Ready, Be Comfortable
About 1% of speakers have the innate ability to give a lived-in, natural talk without hours and hours of practice. For the other 99% of us, rehearsing is integral to minimizing stage fright.
In our blog How The Best Presenters Win Their Audience, we emphasized how critical it is to prepare and rehearse your talk days before you walk onto a physical or virtual stage. Think of the things you know how to do well – driving, cooking, swimming, playing the piano, or any hobby – and you’ll realize that you dedicated hours of practice to be good at these skills. So why would you treat public speaking any differently?
Worktank producers see the highest level of success when a presenter shows up for tech rehearsals after already running their presentation, deck, and media at least ten times, end-to-end, so they’re comfortable even in the dry run. Know your presentation inside-out, record yourself several times, and the confidence that comes by living in your presentation will follow.
I asked one of our most natural presenters what they do to be ready for a talk. They replied, “I start by rehearsing constantly. In the bathroom mirror, on the drive to work, to my trusted work mate. I keep repeating, recording, and listening to my talk until it just feels as effortless as if I’m telling a story to a close friend.”
Rehearsing won’t relieve your anxiety altogether, but it will help to minimize it.
Get Personal & Vulnerable
Making a personal connection in your presentation can also help relax you. When I asked the same seasoned presenter about calming their jitters, they added, “The talk must include a relatable and personal topic that is significant to me. You’d never think my favorite food bangers and mash has anything to do with writing code, but I found a connection – and it allowed me to relax, provide a good laugh, and draw in my audience in a relatable way.”
It’s also important to run your presentation in front of a trusted partner, friend or colleague, and be open with your doubts. Ask for real feedback: what’s missing or what doesn’t make sense? Also, if you feel insecure or vulnerable, say so, and ask for support. Asking for reminders of your strengths is not being vain. It’s important to get encouragement so you can stand a little straighter and have the confidence needed to address a crowd.
Again, most of us – no matter how prepared – get nervous right before we go on stage. When a Worktank producer sees a presenter rushing through a talk and not taking beats for a breath, or tripping on words or ideas, they always intervene and provide simple tactics to disrupt shallow breathing and dry mouth.
Here are a few things you can do just minutes ahead of your talk:
- 5-Minute Meditation. Sit either on a mat or floor (or chair if you have mobility concerns) with hands resting on your knees or by your side. Set a timer for 5 minutes and close your eyes. Breathe in and out through your nostrils. If a thought comes to you, simply acknowledge it, and return your focus to your breath.
- 5-5-5 Breathing. The best way to calm your mind is to lengthen your breath. Even minutes ahead of your talk, close your eyes and rest your arms, hands and legs in a neutral position. Breathe in through your nose for a count of five, hold your breath for five seconds, then count to five as you exhale through your nose. Pause for five seconds and repeat. It even helps to visualize the numbers as you count up and down.
- H20. Make sure you have at least 32 oz. of water by your side before, during and after your talk so that you can stay hydrated and combat dry mouth brought on by anxiety. Performers will often keep a cup of hot water with lemon on hand to help keep their voice even and steady throughout their talk.
Winning Presentations Start with Worktank
Presenting, especially in front of a camera, is not something that comes easily for most people. Even the best, most high-profile leaders and presenters need preparation, practice, and a little help from the professionals. In fact, our producers have worked with everyone from U.S. Army Generals to Fortune 100 executives.