How I Handle Pre-Performance Nerves

How I Handle Pre-Performance Nerves

“The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
~ Nelson Mandela

I want to share with you a few things I do whenever I feel nervous about “performing” in my business. That might be teaching a class, doing a live video, being interviewed, or speaking to someone else’s audience and even though I dislike the term performance, I trust you’ll get what I mean when I say that’s how it can feel to us!

As a solopreneur who is committed to getting the word out about conscious business and ethical marketing, I regularly need to face my fears and put myself at the front of the room, so to speak.

To give you a few examples, I presented on authentic outreach to Sarah Santococe’s Humane Marketing Circle, hosted a live online workshop (or 2), and was one of 4 speakers at a roundtable discussion on business model for Tad Hargrave. All of these things, to varying degrees, result in what I’m calling pre-performance nerves.

Back when I had a 9–5 office job, I had a lot of presentations to do and they absolutely terrified me. My voice would start shaking, my stomach would be in knots, I’d feel my face flush and I’d be dying inside (side note: people always told me I came across as very confident and didn’t see any of what I was experiencing inside). The thing was I didn’t have a choice, they were part of the job description, so I sucked it up and somehow got through the excruciating anxiety of it all.

So, you can imagine as a business owner, choosing to volunteer myself for speaking opportunities or “putting myself out there” has required some courage on my part. What spurs me on though is knowing that people need to know that I and my business exist if they are going to buy from me. So I’ve developed a couple of strategies I always do when I start to feel the nerves of presenting get the better of me.

I think about people who love me

I’m a proud Mama of two gorgeous boys and I have a wonderful and loving partner. I keep on my desk at all times photos of the four of us together as a family. Whenever I’m about to do something scary, I’ll pick up one of my photos and take a good hard look and I remind myself that no matter how badly I do in this… interview, presentation or speaking slot, they will still love me. They won’t care if I umm or ahh, they won’t care if I forget my words or encounter a tech snafu. To these 3 people, I’m already a hero and that really helps me to put whatever I’m about to do into perspective. Their opinion matters to me more than anyone else’s and it won’t be affected by how I perform for a work thing and just remembering that can be enough to calm my nerves.

I think about the future

In a similar vein, if I’m feeling particularly nervous, I like to think about a point in time after the event has happened and imagine how good it will feel once it’s over.

Usually, that point in time is the boys coming home, full of energy and life, wanting to hug me and tell me about their day. I like to think about and revel in the sensations of the relief and elation I know I’m going to feel once the scary thing I had to do is now over. I’ll even look at the clock and calculate how long it will be before this scary thing will be out of the way and not something I have to worry about anymore. Focusing on those future sensations often is enough to override or at least quieten any anxiety I might be feeling.

I think about my mission

Sometimes, pre-performance anxiety can come in the form of inner chatter like “who am I to share this stuff”, “there’s nothing special about what I have to share”, “everybody’s probably heard all of this before” etc, I’m sure you know how it goes! When that’s the case, I remind myself of the relief I felt when I first heard or learned of some of the things I now share with my audience and other people’s.

I think about the impact everything I have learned about conscious business and ethical marketing has had on me as a business owner and the growth and evolution of my business and I remind myself of my mission to spread that message.

When I was on a speaking panel with some giants in my industry who have been in business twice as long as me and make far more money. Initially, I felt totally inadequate, but as I remembered my mission I realised that for many people in the audience, the gap between themselves and some of these speakers is so huge that it might feel intimidating or overwhelming to consider how to bridge it.

My goal then became to tailor my message for those people in the audience earlier on in the journey who I can still relate to. That really helped me to anchor into the fact that I have an important message and experience to share.

I remember previous performance successes

Given I’ve felt pre-performance anxiety and nerves many times in my life but have yet to really blow a speaking opportunity and have always received positive feedback. I also like to remind myself that even though there is fear and anxiety, I can do this. I have a wealth of experience of doing things like this and not messing up.

Now each of these things on their own might not seem like they’d be enough to quel pre-performance fears but for me, they do the trick. Plus the more times I put myself out there and face the fear, the easier it becomes. Will I ever be nerves free ahead of an important speaking opportunity? I don’t think so but I think that’s a good thing. It’s what drives me to prepare and practice, which I do regularly. It’s a sign that I care about doing a good job.

How about you? I’d love to know if you have any tips or tricks for managing your nerves in situations like these. Feel free to let me know in the comments.



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