Monday, September 24, 2012

Better public speaking: good and bad anxiety

Understanding how much anxiety you grapple with as compared to the experience of others can prove surprisingly useful in dealing with the situation. Here are ways to evaluate your level of anxiety about public speaking.

Anxiety and energy: The same only different.

Anxiety is a form of energy that arises from within. Let’s define energy:

1. The capacity for vigorous activity; available power: “I eat chocolate to get quick energy.”

2. An adequate or abundant amount of such power: “I seem to have no energy these days.” (Maybe your pancreas is on overdrive from all that chocolate …)

It seems that energy’s good if you have it, bad if you don’t. Interestingly, anxiety doesn’t work that way. It’s good if you have some, bad if you have none.

Good and bad anxiety

What’s good anxiety? Good anxiety is a level of alertness that sensitizes you to the available components of success. In other words, it’s motivational, and it’s what prods you to notice the feedback you give yourself. “Am I ready to speak before this audience? Am I fully prepared? Dressed right? Properly rehearsed?” The answer to all these questions needs to be, “yes.”

If one or more of the answers are “no,” you generally ask yourself, “Why not?” And then you fix what’s wrong. If you find you’re starting to over-fix, you get a grip and tell yourself to chill. Because you’re in control of your energy, you’re able to meet the needs of your audience with good grace, and sometimes even with aplomb.

What’s bad anxiety? Bad anxiety is relentless self-pinging. It takes you down, big-time. Your brain goes atavistic, and your amygdala suits up for Armageddon. Bad karma all around.

A frequent cause of bad anxiety is an imagination gone wild. The likelihood of the following imaginary, negative, bad anxiety scenarios actually happening while you are speaking in public is statistically impossible:

You will faint. No one will be able to revive you.