The Bush Viper

As a speaking event approaches, many people imagine everything that might derail them, from their PowerPoint failing, and difficult attendees, to not being prepared, or losing their voice. Most of these fears are phantoms, and like bush vipers are scary, but not poisonous.

This condition is called anticipatory anxiety, which is activated by a speaker's inability to predict the outcome or potential threats connected to an upcoming talk. Anticipatory anxiety shows up as chest pain, hyperventilating, muscle spasms, difficulty concentrating, and extreme feelings of apprehension. It's similar to believing a giant beast will attack you, or a life-threatening disaster is imminent. But this condition can be managed and brought to heel.

First, walk yourself through the potential challenges, and rehearse how you would respond. Second, this anxiety produces constriction, so breathe deeply. Concentrating on the breath offsets hypoxia, when a lack of oxygen to the brain can make a speaker blank out. Redirect your attention to things you do well, like tennis, parenting, or operating your business. Then identify where the anxiety resides; in your gut, lungs, or head and make friends with it. Finally, visualize success-- anticipating the joy of delivering well, and the vipers will slink away.

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