Anxiety Reality Check

One of things that I see consistently when running my public speaking workshops, is the person who stands up and presents effectively, calmly and professionally and then sits down with a sigh of relief. When you ask them to score that speaking experience on an anxiety scale of 1 to 10, where 0 is so calm you are almost asleep and 10, so anxious that you heart and brain are almost exploding, invariably they score themselves as an 8 or 9. I then ask the remaining audience what score they would give the person in regard to how anxious they appeared on stage. The score is always 2 or 3 and occasionally 4.

It is an amazing fact, but we are always our own worst critics. We also think and feel that we did worse than we really did. And even when we do quite well, we mark ourselves down. With this knowledge, if we can be aware that the audience is on our side and in reality we come across calmer and more confident than we ourselves feel, we should then be able to lower our own anxiety rating scale down to 6 or 7. If we can do this, we know that the audience is going to rate us as 1 or 2 and we are going to come across as calm and collected. So simple but not so easy to do.

So when you are waiting to speak, waiting to be introduced or about to chair a meeting, just examine how you are feeling. Where are you on the anxiety scale? If you can relax, deep breath, visualize or whatever and just calm yourself down a notch, then that will have an even greater effect on how the audience perceives you. Try and remember to get feedback. Have a friend or colleague in the audience and ask, “How nervous did I come across”. Compare it with how nervous and anxious you actually felt and you will be pleasantly surprised.

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