• Quote of the Day
    "Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be,
    but to find out who we already are and become it."
    Steven Pressfield, posted by David Baxter

Peanut

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Hi, I haven't been here in awhile, but I have an upcoming presentation and I am getting seriously, seriously scared and panicked about it. Earlier this term I was put on the spot at a research meeting (separate from this class) and had a near panic reaction in front of everyone. That shook me up considerably regarding my confidence to come across un-anxious. It is this Friday and I am really really scared. I am a little surprised because I have had to do this kind of thing before and have never been quite so alarmed about it. Nothing regarding talking myself down is working. I'm getting more and more upset about and thinking about just abandoning the class even though it's the very last thing I have to do in the hardest class I've ever taken and all the work would be for nothing. I recently was in a bad car accident and it wasn't even 1/100 as scary as this is to me. What can I do to calm down and stop letting this anxiety build so I don't end up like I did earlier this term in the research meeting (which was looking totally anxious and incompetent)? It was so bad I decided to leave the research group after this term. Any advice is greatly appreciated! Is there a point where I just can't take this and should not do it? My proposal is done and ready to go, but I'm not.
 

ladylore

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Re: Scared to death

Hi Peanut,

When was the car accident? Were you hurt?

At the moment it sounds like you may need to take a breath - just focus on your normal breathing for a minute.

My guess is that the car accident and the panic you are feeling may be related in some way. Sometimes we have delayed reactions to events in our lives and this may be one of them.

And as for the prsentation some CBT may help. The presentation is a week away and you have done them before without a hitch - you can do it again.

And right at this moment is all that you need to think about, the last moment is gone and the future isn't here yet. Do you have some soothing music you can put on?

I will stick around for a bit to chat with you Peanut - I am happy you dropped in. :hug:
 

David Baxter

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Re: Scared to death

Another possibility might be to talk to your doctor about getting a very low dose (0.5 mg) of a tranquilizer such as lorazepam or clonazepam. Use this to help get a good night's sleep for the couple of days before your presentation and then if you feel your anxiety getting out of control you could always break one in half or even into quarters to take the edge off. Often, just having this as an option is enough to get you through without having to use it.

Beyond that, from my own experience I can tell you a few things:

1. Even the best speakers experience some anxiety prior to a public presentation. It's part of what alerts them, fires adrenaline through the system, so that they are able to focus acutely on what they want to say and stay energized both for themselves and for the audience. But with people you view as good speakers, you don't notice their nervousness - and that's a key point. YOU may feel nervous and shaky and YOU will think that your anxiety is obvious to everyone in the room but often people overestimate this. In all likelihood, most if not all of your audience will not be aware that you're anxious.

2. NOT being anxious before public speaking is a bad thing. There was a time many years ago when I was teaching that strangely I didn't feel at all nervous or anxious before one of my lectures... and it was the worst public performance of any kind I've ever done. I wasn't focused. I kept forgetting points I wanted to make. Even listening to myself I was bored. After about 20 minutes, I just stopped, apologized to the class saying I wasn't feeling well or something, and let the poor students go home. That's when I really learned the importance of being at least a little nervous.

3. 15-20 minutes before your presentation, try to find a quiet spot - your office, even a washroom if necessary - where you can sit quietly and try to relax your arm and shoulder muscles a bit (just try to let them go limp to your sides) and breathe slowly in and out for a few minutes, trying to get your breathing and heart rate down just a little.

4. Make good notes of what it is you want to say (I actually used to write out a research talk fully, double or triple spaced for easy reading) and then try to use it as little as possible - just keep it handy in case you lose your place.

5. USE VISUAL AIDS like slides or PowerPoint. This does two things: First, it allows you to look at the slide yourself when you're talking, keeping you on track and giving you somewhere else to look besides the audience; and second, it gives the audience something else to focus on so it feels less like they are staring straight at you.
 

Retired

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In addition to the strategies listed by David, which I have done as well, I would always visit the place where my talk would take place.

I would rehearse how I would walk up to the stage or podium, actually go up to the podium, and imagine myself giving my talk.

This would help me familiarize myself with the place, where things are located and imagine the audience.

When it came time for the presentation, it all seemed familiar and helped lessen my anxiety level.
 

Peanut

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Thank you, I feel a little more rational about this now. I think the key thing that has really thrown me this time was the aforementioned incident in the other research group where the professor said "Since x and y have left, Peanut is now the expert on the xyz data, so Peanut would you mind explaining to the newcomers about this research?" and I very nearly had a panic attack, my voice started shaking and I was APPARENTLY anxious to everyone in the room and COULD NOT remember WHY we had even collected the data in the first place even though I DID know. Believe me, I did not look good. Because of this incident, I have lost the faith that "nobody will be able to tell how anxious I am' because my voice shakes so badly and I turn red.

A couple other points:
1. I have a rx for lorazepam that I take 1-2 mg on a daily basis (the above happened after I took .5mg)
2. My presentation is very throroughly on PPT so and written word for word on notecards. At your suggestion maybe I will deviate from them. My boyfriend told me to read them only because I did better that way.
3. Prior to my presentation I will have to sit through 2 others

Finally, ladylore, thanks for asking about the accident, it happened about 1.5 weeks ago and it was stressful because I had to find a new car to buy very fast because I needed one for work. I only had a sore back but I ignored it and it went away. Thanks for asking=)

4. I am meeting with my teacher on Tuesday and it was originally to go over my proposal but now I am thinking about making it a beg for mercy meeting.

THe only thing I have going for this is that I really like my classmates and teacher and I know the topic well. That's it!

But, I'm gathering that you guys are saying that this is not a good enough reason to say I have too much anxiety to do this. So I will use your tips, try some way to stop the surge of anxiety this week and if worse comes to worse, read the notecards.
 

David Baxter

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2. My presentation is very throroughly on PPT so and written word for word on notecards. At your suggestion maybe I will deviate from them. My boyfriend told me to read them only because I did better that way.

If you construct your PPT slides correctly, you can use them as cue cards. It's really a matter of personal preference. I found early on that reading actually made me more nervous because it felt awkward to me and I think I felt it made me appear less competent or knowledgeable and it meant I was less able to judge how the audience was reacting to me. So my strategy became one of writing it all out as a paper that I could read if I absolutely had to but then practicing it a few times and creating visual aids to remind me and keep me on track and then give the talk without reading.

3. Prior to my presentation I will have to sit through 2 others

One of my early idols, who was also one of the best speakers I knew, used to make a point of ducking out about 5-10 minutes before it was his turn to collect his thoughts and get one last drink of water.

Addendum, FWIW: I always found that keeping in motion, not standing in one place like behind a podium, also helped my anxiety levels.
 

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so Peanut would you mind explaining to the newcomers about this research?"

That would catch all but the most seasoned public speaker off guard. I would not define all future presentations by that unfortunate incident.

I have a rx for lorazepam that I take 1-2 mg on a daily basis

Be aware that lorazepam (Ativan) falls into the category of medications that need to be tapered on withdrawl.

Though not an antidepressant as discussed in this Psychlinks Thread, lorazepam is a minor tranquilizer in the benzodiazepine class of medications.

Because the half life of lorazepam fall into the short category (8 to 12 hours) when this med is discontinued and not replaced by another similar medication, the dosage needs to be tapered to avoid unwanted withdrawl symptoms.

Have a look at the thread I referred to for more info on tapering dosage.
 

Peanut

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OK guys, I'm feeling more pumped up about it. I ran through it and glanced back and forth between my notecard and slides and looking at nothing and it worked! My slides are good so I think I can do this.

That is also good advice about leaving the room. The other thing I think I might do is ask if I can go first. The teacher knows I'm nervous and has been super cool about everything, telling me I can just read if I want.

That moving comment also made me laugh...it made me remember my speech class when the teacher goes, oh look, we have a "Swayer"!

Quote:
so Peanut would you mind explaining to the newcomers about this research?"

That would catch all but the most seasoned public speaker off guard. I would not define all future presentations by that unfortunate incident.
Thank you so much for saying that. I have been looking for some way to make that incident less traumatizing. I wasn't sure what would make it that way, but you saying that did. Thank you for helping me put that to rest before the presentation...rest in peace mistake I made that doesn't have to follow me for the rest of my life.

Cheers! I'll let you know how it goes and either way the class will be over and I will have done it and passed!
 

David Baxter

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That moving comment also made me laugh...it made me remember my speech class when the teacher goes, oh look, we have a "Swayer"!

:D I remember that...

What I do is walk around, trip over things like microphone cords, lean up against walls in the corners and then saunter across to the other corner, bump into the podium from time to time, get yanked back by the microphone cord or have it yank itself off my lapel...

Never underestimate the power of comedy! :D
 

texasgirl

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Speaking of which: One time I had to give a presentation to a hospital board of trustees. My topic was to get their ok to go forward with a new wing for the hospital. I had architectural drawings lined up on one side of the room, with very little space between the easels and the board members. Anyway, I had a cup of coffee in my hand and was proceeding to turn to the slides to show them when I tripped over the first easel, then the next, etc. etc. all the while pouring coffee all over the board members. I ended up on my backside with my skirt in the air. My boss was in shock. I started laughing hard, as did everyone else. What can you do in those circumstances except laugh!

Best of luck to you - you sound like you have it nailed now!

TG
 

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Peanut,

It certainly sounds like you have yourself in a good state of mind. We'll be eager to hear how it went.

There are plenty of techniques used by speakers for emphasis and for effect.

You may find it helpful to watch speakers such as politicians and even news readers, and, believe it or not, TV Evangelists who are experts at working an audience.

I find I learn the most about their techniques by turning off the sound and watching their body language.

I believe that in public speaking, body language is a major part of the delivery, and by watching people without sound to distract you, you can see what works and what doesn't.
 

David Baxter

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TG, that story is hilarious! Sounds like some of my experiences.

In the old days, when I still smoked, you could actually smoke indoors, even while teaching. One day I was giving an Intro Psychology lecture with a Benson & Hedges 100s (all white) in one hand and a piece of chalk in the other. It's not hard to guess the outcome - I stuck the chalk in my mouth and tried to write on the blackboard with the cigarette. I got burned by some ashes, stepped back, and fell over a chair.

This was quite early in my teaching career but it taught me two things: (1) don't smoke while teaching; and (2) doing something funny is a good way to wake up a large class of 1st year students.
 

moonriver

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Ok now here is an embarassing story to make you all feel better, once I had to go to this employee hearing and be cross examined by this cut throat lawyer, I was so nervous and embarassed I could hardly function. I decided the only way around this way to go out and lunch and have two or three vodka coolers so that I would be able to function. Well not being a drinker at all this was an extremely bad idea and I am extremely fair skinned so my face turned very flushed and stayed that way for hours. I cant say I was nervous during the cross examination but nothing I said that afternoon made and it was all I could do to hide the fact that I had been drinking. It taught me a good lesson though that a little bit of natural courage is alot better than trying to get it by this message. At least you are going about it the right way.
 

texasgirl

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David, Moonriver - absolutely too funny! Wish I had been there for the show! Yep, you couldn't even make up these stories. Well, Peanut, as long as you don't smoke the chalk or trip over the easels or go in drunk to the presentation, you will be ahead of us!

Take care,

TG
 

Peanut

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Well, Peanut, as long as you don't smoke the chalk or trip over the easels or go in drunk to the presentation, you will be ahead of us!

TG

LOL-I'm really glad to come back to these funny stories because I started worrying again! It makes me realize not to take myself to seriously and to laugh is something weird happens and not to internalize it. At least laugh later if I cannot muster it then! But the drinking, that made me stop and think for a minute...ok, ok, maybe not such a good idea!!

But seriously, I emailed my doctor about titrating down on the Remeron today because I am, again, about ready to eat the house. She didn't seem to think it would be a problem to start before the presentation, she said "JUst use the ativan, I assume that still works". But I'm wondering your opinion on it and how much would be good since I don't think 1mg will cut it. Is 2 mg waaay too much? Do you have a feel for this kind of thing? Sorry, I am seriously enjoyig the humor but I have this little bit of business to figure out before Friday!
 

David Baxter

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If you're anxious already, you're probably going to worry about cutting down the Remeron before the presentation, and for that reason rather than medication reasons per se I'd probably recommend waiting.
 

Peanut

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OK, another good point. There must be other worriers like me out there somewhere?! I will continue knawing at the house until after the presentation.

One thing I did notice today, people way liked the bad presentations better than the good one. They literally tore the good one apart in the Q&A. Then the not as perfect ones, people embraced them! It was really interesting. I guess people like flaws to some extent!
 

David Baxter

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OK, one more hint, from my thesis supervisor many years ago: When it's a situation where you're being evaluated, like a thesis defence, don't worry about trying to make everything 100% perfect - first, because it's impossible, and, second, because if it's an evaluation situation they need to find something to criticize so it never hurts to leave them a few simple things that are easily fixed or addressed.
 

Peanut

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OK,thank you! That is a good hint and I've used it before for other things and I see the applicability to this definitely! So I read this earlier and am not going to worry about explaining everything fully in the timed portion because it will eat up the question and answer portion. Haha! Good thinking!

In other related news: I talked to my professor today re: my proposal and my nerves. In the good news, he thought my Powerpoint was really strong and just changed a few things (which I was really happy about b/c i knew I needed a strong ppt b/c of the public speaking weakness)

He also bumped me up to tomorrow first thing so I will stop agonizing over it and be able to restart my life after tomrrow at 10:15. He also emailed me tonight and said he KNOWS I will do well. That particular thing made me more nervous because of the expectation.

I will let you guys know how it goes. It's proposal about the effects of parental involvement in an intervention for autism.

OK...deep breath...it's tomorrow.....he said it's for my "development"...I want to go somewhere and hide!
 

David Baxter

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And tomorrow now being today, good luck with that presentation, Peanut. Break a leg! :)




(I've never understood why that expression is supposed to mean wishing someone well...)
 

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