Nervousness and anxiety are serious issues that affect many of us from time to time. Being nervous can have many undesirable effects on the body (e.g., shaking hands, upset stomach), and anxiety can make it difficult to think clearly, let alone conduct yourself effectively.
Two situations that never fail to jangle the nerves and arouse feelings of anxiety are public speaking and job interviews. Whether you are having a one-on-one conversation with a potential employer or presenting to an auditorium full of people, it’s natural to feel anxious about putting yourself on the spot. In either case, our worries stem from our desire to accomplish two things: make a good impression, and get through with as few complications as possible.
I’ll never forget the time that I took part in (or tried to take part in) a group presentation for one of my third-year university courses, Mass Communication and Popular Culture. I’m normally rather well-composed in front of an audience, but on this particular day I was sleep deprived and totally unprepared. You see, the previous night I put off planning for the presentation in favour of working on a documentary script for another class. I thought I would be fine if I just reviewed my pop culture readings the day of the presentation. Unsurprisingly, I was nowhere near ready to discuss the material; when it was my turn to talk, my hands began shaking, my vocal cords seemed to close up on themselves, and my speech came out in a stuttering, stilted mess. Thank God I wasn’t alone up there—my friend Jon stepped in to save my bacon when it became obvious that I was on the verge of freezing up entirely.
I learned a valuable lesson that day, and I redeemed myself the following week by absolutely rocking a presentation for my Advanced Audio Production class (and that one was solo!). That time around I had put in plenty of prep time, I knew exactly what I was talking about and, in contrast to the previous week’s disaster, I was hardly nervous at all!
So, what are the best ways to combat the negative effects of nerves and anxiety? There are many methods out there and none of them is foolproof, but I think being as well-prepared as possible is one of the best ways to combat anxiety and calm your nerves before a presentation or job interview. The more familiar you are with the topic, the more comfortable you will feel discussing it in front of an audience. While this may seem more relevant to a presentation, a similar type of preparation is required for a job interview. You will need to discuss a topic that is particularly important: yourself, or more specifically, what you are capable of and whether or not you would be a good fit for the position.
If you conduct as much research as possible into the company and position you have applied for, you will be able to provide the best answers possible. Below are a few other strategies that can help you deal with nervousness and anxiety before and during a presentation or job interview:
- Maintain a positive attitude. If you dwell too long on what could go wrong, you may only increase the likelihood of something actually going wrong.
- Get plenty of sleep, eat well and stay healthy. Feeling physically ill will make it much more difficult to concentrate and remain composed.
- Prepare for any potential problems. For example, have a backup plan ready for any laptop problems that might occur during a PowerPoint presentation.
- Be yourself. These are the shoes you are most comfortable in, so wear them! Your words will flow more naturally and, as a result, you will seem genuine to your audience.
- Learn meditation and breathing techniques. Some good examples of the latter can be found here.