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Minimalist Guide to Overcoming Performance Anxiety

January 28, 2018 2 Comments

Cliff HangerHave you ever been nervous about an event where you had to speak? I know, silly question.

Here I am, a voice empowerment coach, and I was nervous about an upcoming radio interview. I didn’t realize it at first, but I was aware of a low-grade irritation hanging over me. When a friend asked me if I was nervous about my upcoming interview, my first impulse was to say, “Of course not…” but in the moment before I spoke, it hit me. That’s what’s going on with me! I’m nervous!

Thank goodness, she asked the question and I made the connection, because then, it was a matter of readying myself so that I could be spontaneous.

Sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? Readying yourself to be spontaneous. But that’s one of the cardinal rules of performance: practice so you can let go.

In this case, Kacey on the Radio at WHUD was going to have a conversation with me about Speaking from the Heart, based on my e-book, “Speak from Your Heart: Six Steps to Engage, Inspire, and Impact Your Audience”. So, to prepare, I re-read the book – it’s only twenty pages – to spark my memory and focus my attention. I have to say I enjoyed reading it again. I think it’s pretty fun and really useful, if I do say so myself.

Once I’d reviewed the material, I did some free writing about what I wanted to say. And I did some organizing of the thoughts as they flowed out. But not in a pressured way. More, like a conversation with myself, finding my way as I went .

I also listened to a couple of Kacey’s interviews with other guests and got a sense of her style. Happily, her style is friendly, down to earth, insightful, and fun. I was looking forward to talking with her.

I got a good night’s sleep and woke up totally psyched about the upcoming interview. I did some more writing first thing in the morning, this time focusing in on some key points I wanted to be sure to cover, including who I am, what I do, and how people can get a copy of my e-book for themselves if they want it.  Even though these are things I should be able to rattle off without thinking, having them in writing in front of me insures that in the excitement of the moment, if I lose my train of thought, they’re there to remind me. More support. Less pressure.

As the time for the call neared, I set myself up in my most comfortable chair with a table in front of me to hold the pages of my e-book, my one page of key points, my glasses and a pen. I opened the curtains so I could glance at the greenery out the window to rest my eyes and mind. I settled in with a glass of water AND a cup of tea five minutes before show time.

I used that five minutes to close my eyes, ground my feet, breathe, relax my eyes and face, and drop down into a landed place. I’m pleased to report that I was following my own advice as laid out in my e-book! Good girl!

As I picked up the phone and dialed, I pictured Kacey who I’d met a couple of weeks earlier. I refreshed my memory of her face and smile and lively energy.

She said hello and we were on. I had a totally great time talking with Kacey and I can’t wait to share the interview with you. It will be airing in a couple weeks and I’ll let you know where and when as soon as I find out.

Meanwhile, here’s my minimalist guide to overcoming anxiety in a nutshell:

  • Remember why you do what you do and why you want to share it with others.
  • Get clear about your purpose in speaking. HINT: if your purpose alludes you, think of where your passion lies. Your passion will clue you in to your purpose.
  • Prepare, so you can let loose. In this case, I reviewed the material I’d be talking about. I also wrote down some points I wanted to be sure to share.
  • Check out the performance space. I listened to previous interviews Kacey had done so I’d have a sense of how she worked and what kind of questions she might ask. If you’re speaking in a specific location, you’ll want to check out the space for it’s size, layout, acoustics, resources. Minimize surprises.
  • Get a good night’s sleep.
  • Sit, write, and/or review quietly the morning of your performance.
  • Gather any material things you’ll need near you to support you as you speak. For me, this included my e-book printed out, my one page of important points, my glass of water, my mug of tea, my glasses, and a pen in case I needed to make a quick note during the interview. By the time I’d set myself up, I felt very cozy, indeed!
  • Provide yourself with a calming image, thought or object. I had a lovely view out the window. You can find more suggestions for using your imagination to calm yourself in my E-BOOK.
  • Allow a few minutes – before you’re on – to sit quietly, ground and breathe.
  • Then, see your audience and connect.
  • Have fun!

Now, I’d love to hear from you –

How have you prepared and supported yourself when you had to speak? What works for you?

Post your comments below and join the conversation.

And stay tuned for future posts on overcoming performance anxiety when you have to speak.

Your Powerful Presence Coach,

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For more tips for overcoming performance anxiety, refer to these blog posts as well:

How to Have a Ground to Stand On

Beginners Guide to Breathing

Move a Muscle, Change a Thought


© 2013 Naaz Hosseini. All Rights Reserved. Copying or resposting this content without written permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author:

Naaz HosseiniNaaz Hosseini is a communication coach and voice empowerment coach. She developed Powerful Presence™ coaching to help corporate and entrepreneurial women step into their vocal power to command the attention and respect they deserve. As a NYS Licensed Psychoanalyst and Qualified Gestalt Therapist, she supervises and trains mental health counselors at Teachers College Columbia University and therapists at the Gestalt Center for Psychotherapy and Training. She served as visiting faculty at the Harvard Graduate School of Education Project Zero Summer Institute for ten years where Howard Gardner has said, "With enthusiasm, I recommend Naaz Hosseini, a pioneer in using the voice and the body for understanding."

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