Overcoming Performance Anxiety: Reduce Stress and Be Your Best

take2This morning I recorded an interview with Steve Nill, my publisher at CharityChannel Press. He is making a promotional video for my newest book, Asking Styles, and he wanted to include an audio recording.

He only needed about 3 minutes. No one listens to much more than that on the fly. But the shorter, the harder because it’s got to be right!

Right?

Just before we began taping, I could feel my heart pound and my mouth get dry.  But then I remembered an old trick to tackle performance anxiety and get a better result.

Three “Takes” Prove Better Than One

Over the last three years, while making hundreds of short videos of people talking directly to my camera, I learned that people would seldom get it right the first time.

But when I asked them to do another take they’d have even more anxiety because they thought they had failed the first time. By the third or forth take, I’d often find my camera pointed at frozen smiles and hesitant sentences.

Then one day, I figured out how to help people find their stride through practice with a minimum of anxiety.

I simply told my subjects right up front that no matter how good or how bad the first and second takes, we were going to record each section three times.

Overcoming Performance Anxiety – Bingo!

No longer did people think they had failed when I wanted them to do it again. There were times when the first take was best, but we wouldn’t know until we had done three.

So when I was being recorded this morning, I asked Steven if we could tape my responses to each question three times… willy-nilly.

It’s not surprising that for most of the questions, the first time wasn’t the best. I gradually found my voice and reshaped the content a bit in successive takes.

But not once did I feel as though I had failed. It felt more like exploration and play than performance.

No Need for Perfection on the First Try

Most of the things I’m good at, I’m good at because I’ve done them more than once.

My capital campaign book is now in its third edition.

And really, though there are things I’d add or change, I think this third edition is really very good. (I must confess to wanting to hide my head under the pillow when the first edition came out. I wish I could have anticipated that I’d have a chance to write two more versions!)

I’ve presented my workshop on Asking As An Intentional Conversation several times over the past year and each time, rather than looking at what didn’t work so well, I’ve focused on finding ways that it might be better.

Give Yourself Permission to Learn Through Practice

If you’re in the mindset of needing to get something right the first time, you are likely to focus on what goes wrong. But if you see a first time as just that… a first time of many… instead of seeing what went wrong, you’ll see what you might do to make it even better the next time.

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Calm Performance Anxiety with 3 “Takes”

Rather than trying to perfect something the first time, craft at least three opportunities to get it right.

If other people are involved, let them know up front that you expect to get better over time and that you will welcome their suggestions.

Think about something that’s taken you three “takes” or more to get good at. How good are you at it today?

Tell me about it in the comments below.

Here’s a link to the white board video that resulted from our 3 Takes approach.

  • Stephen C. Nill

    Andrea’s advice to me at the outset of my interview of her this week–to have three takes for every question–was brilliant. It took the pressure off of both of us to get it “perfect” the first time, gave the interview a casual, conversational tone, and gave us the ability to pick and choose the best answers for the final cut when editing the recording. Listen for yourself at http://youtu.be/B7XVdInvoLw. See what I mean?

  • Stephen C. Nill

    Andrea’s advice to me at the outset of my interview of her this week–to
    have three takes for every question–was brilliant. It took the
    pressure off of both of us to get it “perfect” the first time, gave the
    interview a casual, conversational tone, and gave us the ability to pick
    and choose the best answers for the final cut when editing the
    recording. Listen for yourself at http://youtu.be/B7XVdInvoLw. What do you think?

    • Andrea Kihlstedt

      Thanks Steve. What a pleasure it is to work with you and to see the amazing whiteboard video you created from our conversation. I know this is your first of these videos. In the spirit of “Three Takes” I can’t wait to see the third one.

  • Dawn Wolfe

    What a perfect idea! I’m currently taking a rhetoric class and am going to attempt to practice each speech three full times before presenting it to the group.