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Seb Anthony

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Overcoming Nerves


Recently, I have been attending interviews for training roles but have been more nervous than I've ever been before.

The main area of concern for me is that when I make the usual 15 minute presentation I become really short of breath and struggle to get my words out. My mouth goes dry and I start stumbling.

I find this extremely frustrating because I've worked in training for years, make successful presentations all of the time but this has happened about
3 times now. Any practical suggestions please.

Thanks in adavnce.

9 Responses

  1. Arian Associates Ltd
    Don’t approach the interview as an interview. Approach it like you would a training session and focus on that instead of the interview thing. Don’t know if it will work, but it’s worth a try. If you are experienced in training you might feel less stressed delivering a presentaion as part of a ‘training session’ instead of an ‘interview’.

    Good Luck

  2. Sympathy
    You have my sympathy here because I suffer dreadfully from “performance anxiety” at interview though I never have done in an actual training session (a few pre-match nerves but once I get started I’m fine).

    I think Peter’s advice is good if you can manage to divorce the concept of interview from your session emotionally and mentally.

    For me, I decided to cut all the uneccessary stuff that surrounds training presentations – I binned the powerpoint and just prepared some handouts and relied on my personality alone to carry the session – it worked after several dire interviews where I tried to do everything I cut back to the basics and found it was much easier to just be me and I got the first job that I went for (and it was the one I most wanted).

    Good luck, and if you find something that works please let us know. I think we can all learn from this.

  3. Use the mind
    Hi Clive
    I agree with Peter’s comments about not treating it as an interview.
    Personally when I do a presentation I have been through it many times in preparation and tend to find this helps for the words to flow as I don’t have to think about what is coming next.
    Other suggestions would be to visualise yourself doing an excellent presentation and playing this scenario over and over in your mind.
    A hypnotherapy session may be useful to enhance your confidence or identify the cause of the problem.

    Good luck

  4. Presentation Interviews
    Clive – Don’t look at it as an interview; simply treat it as a conversation with purpose! I’m sure that preparation and passion will see you right!

    Good luck and try to enjoy your presentation – it will come across that way to others if you do.

  5. If you think you can or you think you can’t, you are always righ
    The key to future success lies with focusing on the past successes you have had or visualising the success you want. At present you are probably going into each interview situation remembering what went wrong last time. When you do this you become congruent with this unhelpful behaviour. A few NLP techniques or cognitive hypnotherapy sessions will help you recognise your pattern for success. Your thinking really does affect your behaviour in the same way that your behaviour can affect your thinking. You have probably realised that just thinking postively is not enough. You need to have a strategy in place that can interupt the unhelpful thinking and/or behaviour when it happens. Happy to help on an individual basis.

  6. Or…

    Pardon me if I’m missing the point, but it occurs to me that there’s maybe something special about the interviews and presentations which hasn’t been true of the many presentations you’ve completed so successfully in the past. If there is, I guess that might have something to do with the difference in your performance. But since you don’t mention anything of that kind there’s not much point trying to address it.

    Anyway, at the risk of being out of step here, I recommend that you do NOT try to pretend that it isn’t an interview situation. Since you know perfectly well that it IS an interview there’s little to be gained by trying to fool yourself – which is likely to leave you in an even more confused state than you are already.

    Now for what you CAN do:

    1. Get yourself a small mineral water bottle and fill it with a mixture of water and real lemon juice. Experiment to find what proportions you need to make your mouth water without becoming entirely puckered up. Take a sip when you get even a hint of dryness in your mouth or throat.

    2. Getting short of breath is usually the result of breathing too quickly and/or only filling the top of the lungs with new air. All you need is a full breath or two to get you back on course. One simple way to do this is to ask your audience a question – “Is that clear?” or somesuch – and use the pause to get in a couple of breaths.

    3. It may also be that you are getting particularly tense. And recognising that you feel stressed may be causing even more stress. If so, remind yourself that a certain amount of stress stress can be beneficial, and a little extra adrenalin is useful for putting you in the right state to deliver an effective presentation.

    4. You might want to try a simple form of meditation (the non-religious variety) where you sit in a quiet place for 10-20 minutes counting as you breath in and out: Breath in and out (normal pace) and count 1, Breath in and out and count 2 …. breath in and out and count 10, then breath in and out and count 1 – and so on.

    Not only will the relaxation be good for your health, after a few sessions just starting the exercise will help you to relax very quickly and effectively – like when you’re about to do a presentation.

    5. Lastly, in your situation I would make a list of my most memorable past successes as a trainer – the situation, what I did and how it worked out. Read this on your way to each interview. Or if you go by car and have a tape player, record the information and play it over on the journey to the interview.

    Hope this information will be as useful for you as it has been for the people I got these ideas from.

    Best wishes


  7. You have all the answers you need.
    A one hour session with a good Hypnotherapist will see this problem put to rest permanently and will improve your performance in other areas as well. As a therapist and life coach I come across this alot and it is easy to deal with. You can call it performace anxiety or interview stress or what ever, it is a result of your internal self talk that takes over in moments of high stress and is never logical so ‘logical’ answers are seldom the cure. Invest in your future and arrange a session soon to put your future in your own hands now.

  8. A little legal chemical stimulation!
    Dear Clive
    I think we can all identify with your feelings and there has been some good advice given. I would offer one more bit – and you probably know this already – the dry mouth and stumbling words are sogns of adrenalin levels getting too high. If you can get somewhere quiet just before starting and have a good shake out – arms, hands, legs, loosen the neck – this lowers the adrenalin by releasing natural endorphins. During the presentation you can add to this by any physical movement (just don’t get too ‘Lee Evans’. Then again, they’ll remember you!) Laughter also has the same effect.
    Finally, it can help to remind yourself (as you shake out) that you ARE a good trainer and this presentation is YOURS.

    The very best of luck.


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