Imagine you’re getting ready to go on stage to give a talk to an audience of 500 people. You’ve been preparing for this event for months and a lot is at stake: possible partnerships, new clients, product sales, and heck, even your reputation. If all goes well, your income will be set for the next year and you’ll be able to surprise your partner with that vacation you’ve both been dreaming about.
It’s 20 minutes until you’re scheduled to go on stage and your nerves are starting to kick in. You’re wringing your clammy hands, your heart is beating, you’re gasping for a deep breath, and your mind is starting to turn against you - coming up with embarrassing scenarios of forgetting what you’re supposed to say next or the audience booing you off the stage.
Then you remember my words:
“Well, great,” you think to yourself. “I can show up with a Powerful Presence when I’m not freaking out, but how do I portray a Powerful Presence when I’m experiencing so much anxiety?”
This is a good question, because anxiety is the killer of Powerful Presence. But you have one thing going for you that others don’t. You have strategies to dispel anxiety and get back to a state of Powerful Presence, which you will use in the next 20 minutes before you go on stage. Here they are:
One reason many people experience anxiety before going on stage is because they don’t know how things will turn out, so they brood over worst case scenarios. They worry that they might fumble their words, trip on their way to the stage, be unpopular with the audience, or people won’t laugh at their jokes.
Worrying about these things is pointless because it’s impossible to predict if they will actually happen. So instead of worrying, causing your anxiety to soar, choose to take the responsibility for the outcome off your shoulders.
In her book, The Charisma Myth, Olivia Fox Cabane refers to this strategy as “Responsibility Transfer.” Here’s how it works: Find a quiet place to close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Imagine a powerful being standing in front of you: God, the Universe, or someone who you respect and admire. Imagine taking everything you’re worried about and handing it over to the powerful being. The powerful being is now carrying all of your worries. You are no longer responsible for how things turn out. You just have to go up there, do your best and things will turn out exactly as they should.
One mindset shift I use to reduce anxiety when I’m about to go on stage (yes, I experience anxiety sometimes too) is to remember that it’s normal to feel anxious. Anxiety is a shared human experience that even the best speakers feel sometimes before going on stage.
Because everyone experiences anxiety, it’s not such a big deal, it’s just a feeling and feelings come and go. I can let it go.
Do you ever experience anxiety and then beat yourself up because you “shouldn’t” feel it? This makes you feel twice as bad. First, you feel bad because of the anxiety itself, and second, you feel even worse for feeling something you “shouldn’t.”
A good way to dispel anxiety is to accept it, acknowledge it, and allow it to pass through you instead of getting stuck inside you. When you fight it, it gets stuck inside because you’re grasping on to the anxiety and letting it have power over you.
Instead of believing all the negative scenarios your mind generates, acknowledge that your mind often has an inaccurate grasp on reality. Our minds tend to focus on the negative possibilities even when outweighed by positive possibilities.
With this awareness you can choose to “make up” positive outcomes because if you’re making things up you might as well make up something in your favor, right?
Anxiety can be one of the biggest barriers to a powerful presence, but if you put these strategies to use, you’ll be able to project that Powerful Presence that is so important to a successful presentation.
What additional strategies can you share to help others maintain a Powerful Presence when they’re feeling anxious?
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