Has anyone had anxiety interfere with a job talk or research presentation? I had to stop a job talk because I got so anxious. I only stopped for about 20-30 seconds and picked up and did a great job, to lots of positive feedback, but I did have to take a moment to collect myself in the very beginning. Looking for reassurance here. Thanks in advance.
Date: 29 Mar 2013 16:04
Number of posts: 11
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This hasn't happened to me, though I do find I stumble a bit more at the beginning out of nerves. However, a helpful suggestion is to incorporate some kind of thought or discussion question near the beginning of your talk. This gives you a moment to recollect yourself, sip some water, and breathe while the audience talks either to each other or with the large group, and it gives you affirmation that they are listening.
i've had anxiety attacks before my qualifying exam and once before a conference talk, but fortunately never during a talk. some strategies that i use to manage my anxiety before high stress performances: (1) i memorize the first 30secs of my presentation. i generally don't like to memorize talks, but i find that once i get 30 seconds into it, my automatic talk giving brain area lights up and i watch it work. (2) i go to the bathroom right before the talk. it helps me recenter and not sit and wait in the crowded room that is waiting to see me talk. i find that right before the talk when people are trying to talk to you and you are trying to stay sane is the time. (3) i found talking to people who were talking to me before my talk about being anxious helped me be less anxious. i think some people might be worried about doing this. but i actually think this is a good idea for a number of reasons. everyone gets anxious before talks (they probably gave a job talk at the university even!), so it is understandable. it allows the two of you to connect about it and for them to empathize with you, which is always a good thing because people have more trouble rejecting a candidate that they've connected with and like.
if you are not seeing a therapist regarding the anxiety issues, i highly recommend seeing one. although a job talk is an atypically stressful event, you will have many stressful events in your life as an academic. where you need to perform. since i have worked on my anxiety issues with a therapist (i actually was already when they two aforementioned attacks happened), i am definitely less anxious overall and have had significantly fewer anxiety and panic attacks.
it sounds like you handled it in the best way possible. the anxiety did not stop you from successfully giving your talk, and so, i would not worry too much about it. it may end of being a factor, but if it is, do you really want to work there?
Many prominent and very successful psychologists have had serious panic during talks. I heard of one VERY successful psychologist who actually fainted during a conference talk due to extreme panic. Another told me he nearly had to stop and just give up. I wouldn't worry about it.
I would note that a really good way to get rid of nerves about giving talks is to teach lecture large classes a lot. And it helps if you every once in awhile give a lousy lecture. It allows you to see that you can recover even from a bad performance, mostly because you have no choice but to get up and give it another try the next class…
Ditto on the teaching. My anxiety about giving talks was dramatically reduced after I started teaching. Job/conference talks still cause more anxiety, of course, but not nearly as much. As a bonus, I also think I'm a much better speaker now, because I'm better at thinking of ways to explain things.
I had this happen once. But I dont think people notice. I just stopped, looked at my slides and clicked over a couple of slides. Most people probably just thought I misplaced a slide. Nobody pointed it out. When speakers make small blunders it's really no big deal as long as they handle it well. It sounds like you did just fine. IF you dont get the job, dont think it was because of this.
Teaching definitely helps. When I give a job talk or at a conference I just imagine that the audience are my students. Also, remember that even if you feel nervous and have all the symptoms. in most cases people do not notice them. We then to think that everyone can see we are nervous but in reality they don't and most don't care much.
I'm glad someone posted this, because I was beginning to think I was the only one that suffered from the symptoms of anxiety during talks (conference & job alike).
I've actually taught a lot of VERY large classes (close to 400 students), but I experience job and conference talks very differently than lectures. Sure, large lecture classes help, but the material for those classes isn't your own and your audience is far less informed on the topic than in a professional talk. Thinking of all audiences as students is an excellent strategy. Also just remind yourself that if you're presenting your own work, you certainly know more about it than anyone else in the room does :)
Something that also helps with me is simply trying not to think about any of the specifics of execution during the talk. I've found that trying to think about my wording, while useful in writing for publication, invariably backfires and sets off a cycle of over-regulation, ending up in a case of either the "mums" (for a few secs) or just the worst possible phrasing for whatever I am trying to say. Memorizing the first 30 secs is a good strategy. Memorizing more than that may leave you feeling "tied" to specific phrasing which, when you forget the phrasing, sets off the thinking (in this case attempts at memory retrieval) that lead to anxiety. But anything that can get your mind off of the execution of the actual talk is great, in my opinion.
Last year I spent my entire job talk trying not to faint and/or have a panic attack. And I got the job :) This is very common! Exposure therapy is the key. Practice your job talk, in front of an (ideally critical) audience, so often that it feels rote. That way, when you are blindsided by performance anxiety, the talk will still feel like second nature. I actually don't recommend totally memorizing it, because then you might feel paralyzed when you forget a section - but practice, practice, practice multiple phrasings and eventually you'll settle into a delivery that feels right. Also, therapy is hugely helpful for anxiety. There's a lot of empirical support for CBT and exposure treatments for panic, in particular.
I am the original poster - thank you all for being so kind and human in your responses - and helpful. I didn't give all the details in my original post, but basically I had a full-on panic attack. My notes on the page in front of me got blurry, and I had to stop, sit down, and sip some water. It all lasted less than a minute and I picked up, stood up, and kept going. Although I was shaking, I got stronger as I went on and think in the end it was a good talk - I also handled the Q and A very well (according to a few profs in the audience). I just hope they don't think I am a mental case :(