But that would not happen to me

We all know that feeling of performance anxiety right before a big presentation – a racing heartbeat, sweaty palms and wondering if we will make a fool of ourselves in front of a big crowd. For some it happens less than others and the more you practice, the better you get at overcoming it or even using it to your advantage. I grew up experimenting with public speaking and took a liking to it. In high school, I joined a debate team, spoke in front of hundreds of people and even won some awards. I started to think that I was actually pretty good at it.

A few years later, I started my business program at Haas. It was first week of classes and everyone was busy trying to impress each other with their high GPAs and extraordinary accomplishments. Our first assignment for a Business Communications class was to pick a topic and speak in front of the class for few minutes. Of course I thought to myself, this will be easy. I got up to speak and all of a sudden I could not remember anything I wanted to talk about. My mind went completely blank and no words could come out of my mouth. My worst fear was right there in front of me. The rest of what happened in class that day was a blur and I came home feeling like I wanted to hide. How in life would I ever recover from something like this and how would my new peers perceive me? How could it happen to me?

Now looking back, I have several lessons learned from that experience. First, moments like this happen to all of us no matter how good we think we are at something. So, it’s better to not dwell on them and be kind to ourselves than being critical. Second, it’s not the end of the world and you WILL move on. In fact, it’s better to go through experiences like this and be humbled than to try being perfect all the time. Third, most people won’t remember and don’t care anyways. They are too busy thinking about their own lives. Fourth, things that seem so important in the moment are really not that important and will soon be a distant memory. Finally and most importantly, next time you find someone in a situation like this, you will know not to judge and criticize them.

4 comments

  1. playball94501

    Every speaker or performer, no matter how seasoned, experiences nervous energy prior to opening their mouth and uttering those first syllables. If someone says they don’t experience some form of nerves and responding adrenaline rush in these instances, they are a fake.

  2. Very true. Some amount of nervousness can even be a good thing since it gets you pumped up and prepared. I find that drinking water and deep breathing before a presentation makes a big difference!

  3. There is no substitute for experience and practice when it comes to just about anything. The good news is that practice always helps. It might not fully eliminate performance anxiety but it always leads to a significant improvement.

  4. Agreed. The hardest part is taking action.

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