I think it’s fair to say that none of us is at our best when we’re anxious, nervous or worried about outcomes. And yet, that is often the state we’re in prior to giving a presentation. The higher the stakes, the higher the anxiety quotient.

Spinning Your Wheels
You know that feeling when you’re running in circles? And you can’t stop the negative self-chatter that threatens internal equilibrium? Sometimes I call it the negative downward spiral. Once it starts, it keeps heading south all on its own.

Take Specific Action
You can make the decision to do something about it. There are two kinds of actions to take.

The Outer Game
is taking care of the external factors. Prepare. Know the room setup and the audience, have your slides and deck well-designed and ready, practice your content.

The Inner Game
is where it really gets interesting. If you tell yourself to take it easy, do you listen? I know, it’s hard. The more uptight we feel, the tighter our bodies get and the harder it becomes to chill.

Relaxation Exercises
Just as you’ve heard of using your courage muscle to build more courage, you also need to strengthen your relaxation muscle. Try the following ideas for a good workout.

Visualization: Gone Fishin’
When asked where they feel most relaxed, most of my clients respond with some variation of being outdoors. Beach, water, woods, bike trail…

Picture your own special place. Imagine yourself right in that scene, doing what you love to do. Gaze at the horizon, smell the pine trees, hear the birdsong, feel the breeze, squish your toes in the sand. You get the idea. The more detailed and real you make the picture, the more easily your body relaxes.  

Affirmation: You Got This!
For years, I’ve used a very simple, three-sentence mantra, when the pressure’s on and I’m feeling anxious.

I am who I am. I know what I know. I’m very good at what I do.

Make up your own. Keep it brief, using only positive words. Repeat, repeat, repeat internally. You are sending a powerful and encouraging message to your sub-conscious, fighting back the negative self-talk. 

Celebration: This, Too, Shall Pass
Give yourself the gift of perspective. Remind yourself that everything ends. I smile at myself in the mirror before I leave home, and make a promise, “I will see you again!” No matter what.

In your mind’s eye, can you lift yourself out of the anxiety of the moment? Imagine yourself at 50,000 feet, looking down at tiny you in the minuscule meeting room. In the Big Scheme of Things, you will be OK.

Of course, you can always listen to the music that puts a smile on your face. Just remember to unplug before you’re on.