Confronting the anxiety beast at Pecha Kucha

I went to be in the audience of my first Pecha Kucha last year; and walked away thinking – “that’s so cool” – I wish I could do it.

And then laughed.  There is NO way that would happen.

What a difference, 6 months can make.

I laughed because, not only am I an introvert, I have social anxiety.  For me this means that even in a group setting – and even if I know everyone, I succumb to the physiological symptoms of anxiety, which usually stops me from putting my hand up and usually means that whatever I wanted to say, comes out as something else.  It’s always been this way.  Always the increased heart-rate and often the feeling of everything closing around me with the thudding pressure in my head and inability to stop shaking – or worse can’t move.  The extent of it varies with the situation – but it’s always there.

That’s why the thought of voluntarily putting myself in front of a crowd for 6 minutes and 40 seconds and talking was incomprehensible.

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I have opinions, views and stories to share.  I have so much to say and while written communication is how I’ve always done it – I feel that it was limiting me. Confront the beast.

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So, one night after a few wines I put my name forward to speak at the next Pecha Kucha… than wondered WTF had I gotten myself into when I found myself on the list for the night. I had about a month to prepare.  I left organising it until the weekend before, but had spent a lot of time thinking about what I would even talk about.  How I was going to do this and again… WTF had I gotten myself into.

I went through waves of anxiety  –  especially when the introduction was put up on the facebook page.  I went through moments of positive self talk… I can do this… What’s the worst that could happen? (Well I tried not to think about that too much).

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After organising my slides, writing a script and practicing a few times – I found myself in an un-naturally calm and positive frame of mind (totally not like me).  I was ready for this. Here are the things I think helped the most to get me up on the stage.

  1.  Being prepared.  Know what you are talking about. I wasn’t sure how I would handle the pressure and was kind to myself by having full notes.
  2. Practice.
  3. Visualise yourself doing it successfully.  (For me successfully didn’t mean perfect, it meant getting what I wanted to say out… and not falling over – wear flat shoes).  Imagine yourself being the best you can be.
  4. Self talk.  You CAN do this.  People do this ALL the time.  You are prepared.
  5. Accept the anxiety.  I absolutely accepted and was prepared to be anxious.  In the weeks leading up to it when I was feeling nervous – I would breathe and do positive self talk.  This included about minutes before hand when I was starting to get uncomfortable in the wait…  BREATHE
  6. Ask to go first.  Anxiety happens because of anticipation.

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I did it.  I was comfortable – Pecha Kucha is absolutely the best format and crowd to be speaking for the first time in front of.  I even enjoyed myself on stage – which is totally strange for me to admit even to myself.  Something that I thought I couldn’t do… I totally did.

I’ll be publishing the presentation this weekend – stay tuned.

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