08 Feb 21 / Blog

Managing performance anxiety on the day

Performance anxiety – believe it or not you need it! I decided recently to invest in my public speaking skills, so I joined the Professional Speaking Association to give me the push I needed. I’ve now had the opportunity to speak twice in front of a PSA audience – all of whom make their living from speaking. And both of those speaking slots have been nerve-wracking experiences. Now that performance anxiety has all been of my own doing, because the expert speakers in the PSA are there only to guide and share their experience and advice. It’s a judgment-free zone. But just like you when you’re stepping onto a stage, I still felt the pressure of wanting to put my best self out there.

Even after all the hours working on scripts, and rehearsing my talks, my biggest learning from speaking on the PSA stage has been performance management. I’ve used a variety of tools and techniques to prevent the performance anxiety from hijacking my talk. I’d like to share some of those learnings with you:

On the morning of your talk

🚶 Get some exercise – get those endorphins flowing and build your positivity. I ran the beach.
🍋 Stay away from caffeine. Hot water and lemon is great for your voice.

One hour before

😜 Distract yourself. Try tongue twisters to get your brain in gear “She sells seashells by the seashore.”
🧘 Get limber. Stretch out and warm up your muscles.
🧠 Ground yourself and quell the nerves. If you can find a quiet space, the Wim Hof breathing technique is simply amazing.

As you’re being introduced

💨 In the moment that the event host is introducing you, a simple, easy breathing routine is the last minute confidence boost you need. If you’re at a venue, you may be waiting in the wings or seated in the audience, so you’re still hidden from the audience’s view – you have complete freedom! If you’re online, the big difference is that you’re probably being spotlighted. But even with the Zoom spotlight on, can still breathe – you just need to keep the smile on your face and your mic on mute. In this moment, the 5 – 5 – 10 routine is simple and easy. Breathe in through your nose for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds and then do a long exhale through your mouth for 10 seconds. You can fit in three of these in the minute it takes to introduce you, and it’s invisible to your audience.

During your talk

😊 Make sure to smile. Remind your audience that you’re there because you this topic matters to you and you’ve got something to say that can help them.
💬 Keep it real. Imagine a conversation with a real person that represents your audience. Now inject 10% more energy, it might feel a bit over the top but that’s you making a real connection from the stage – in real life or virtual.


🎁 Step back and enjoy the gift that you have passed on to your audience. Relax.


🖊️ If this is a talk that you’ll give to other audiences in future, wait at least a week before you make any changes. Make your adjustsments in the cold light of day not the heat of the moment.

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