5 totally do-able hacks for calming your pre-workshop anxiety
Let’s face it, delivering a live workshop can be scary.
As you count down to going live, you may begin the feel that familiar spike of anxiety set in — your heart rate increases, your palms get sweaty, and you kind of contemplate why the heck you signed up for this in the first place.
Sound familiar? ;)
Despite how it may appear, even the most exuberant, self-assured personalities experience the jitters before going live. It's all part of being human, after all.
The good news is that learning how to take control of your pre-workshop anxiety isn't rocket science. With a few simple tricks up your sleeve, you can help to calm the physical and mental anxieties you feel before going live.
Of course, these tricks aren't a magical pill for anxiety. But if you put them into action, I'm fairly confident you'll notice a difference in how you feel before, during, and after your workshop.
From one kind of nervous public speaker to another: The 4 strategies that have helped me step up to the (virtual) plate and deliver a presentation I feel good about.
Deliver your workshop standing up (if you’re able to)
I once delivered a presentation standing at my dining table (my laptop carefully perched on an old Amazon box) as opposed to my usual sitting position.
Wrapping up the presentation, I felt oddly satisfied.
I knew deep inside myself that I’d just delivered a top-notch presentation — I felt calm, I felt confident, and I was able to foster quick and painless connections with my audience. This was a welcomed break from my usual routine of calculating mistakes and reflecting on stumbles.
I’m not a complete jitterbug when I go live, but I was confused about where this new dose of confidence came from.
As it turns out, opting for a standing position when public speaking is “a thing”. Research indicates that standing allows you to think more clearly, present yourself as an authoritative figure and deliver your message with enthusiasm.
It might sound silly. But it just might work for you — give it a try.
Practice the first 30 seconds of your workshop
The first few seconds of any public speaking engagement are arguably the most difficult.
This is often when we feel the most vulnerable — we’re sussing out our audience, our voice is shaky, we’re adjusting to the shock of being the center of attention.
Once we get past that 30-second mark, our body and our mind slowly but surely begin to relax.
For me, I like to practice the first 30 seconds of my presentation a lot — I rehearse it in my head as I walk the dog, I say it aloud in the shower, I perform it to my partner until I could repeat it in my deepest sleep.
I know that if I can confidently work through my introduction, the most difficult part of my presentation is over — I can slowly begin to relax.
Buy a stress ball
I’ve always worn my anxiety in my hands.
Job interview? Pins and needles in my hands.
Waiting for test results? Fingers are numb.
Getting ready to deliver a maid of honour speech? Tingling sensation in my palms.
Until I took to Google, I didn’t realize this was such a commonplace occurrence — a totally normal, physical reaction to nerves.
When I first started delivering presentations a few years ago, my hands took the brunt of my stress. Like clockwork, a tingling sensation would take over my palms and my anxiety would spike even further.
A friend (who also happens to be a physical therapist) recommended something I’d not yet considered: a stress ball.
While I may have scoffed at the idea at first, this $12, tiny ball was a gamechanger for me. With my hands placed carefully out of sight, I would squeeze the ball into a fist and release my stress.
Remarkably, it worked. It was no magical solution, but I couldn’t deny that fact that it noticeably helped to ease my anxiety. (I could get into the science of why this works, but that sounds a little dull.)
When it comes to your workshop, your audience isn't going to know that you’re accompanied by a stress ball — we’re gonna call that a joyful perk to the virtual world.
Take a break to engage with your audience
Delivering non-stop information is exhausting and, honestly, kind of boring.
If you feel the need to pause during your workshop, don’t hesitate to turn to your audience. You can ask open-ended questions, take a poll, or invite them to share a story or a personal connection to the material covered.
Not only is this a seamless way to stimulate engagement, but it’s also a simple way for you to take a deep breath and enjoy a tiny break.
Stop taking yourself so seriously (seriously!)
Whenever I feel consumed by stress, I remind myself of a simple piece of advice a friend gave me: stop taking everything so damn seriously.
Sure, it’s not exactly groundbreaking — but it works.
It’s a gentle reminder that what I’m about to do isn’t going to make or break my life. In other words…it’s really not a big deal.
Throughout your workshop career, you’re going to have good workshops and you’re going to have bad workshops. We can’t be our best selves all the time — isn't that what makes us human?
The sooner we stop taking everything we do so seriously, the easier it becomes to go with the flow when life throws us a few lemons.
If your pre-workshop anxiety is holding you back, try practicing one or two of the above strategies. And if you're going to take one thing from this post, let it be this: your workshop isn't going to make or break your career — take a deep breath and go for it.