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Unless you were born with the “stage” gene, you know the feeling of performance anxiety. The sweaty palms, the weak knees, the shaky voice, and the queasy stomach. Around 75% of the population consider public speaking their number one fear, beating out death for the top spot in our collective nightmares. For many of us, being center stage in the virtual classroom (VC) is even more terrifying as it comes with the same butterflies, but now with added technical problems! If you suffer from the VC jitters, fear not. I have a few tips to help!
I’m taking a light-hearted approach to this topic but, in truth, the anxiety over facilitating or producing in the virtual classroom can be debilitating for anyone who suffers from an anxiety disorder, ADHD, OCD, or any of the various mental health conditions that can be triggered by stress or the pressure to perform. I, myself, remember obsessively checking my virtual classroom set-up five times over the weekend before my first course, and stress-crying for half the morning before the first session. Let’s just say, I was very grateful I’d chosen drama over music in school, because appearing calm and upbeat that day was truly one of my finest performances.
The tips I’m about to share have helped me deal with anxiety in the virtual classroom and improved my entire VC journey. I sincerely hope they help someone else battling with their nerves.
Change Your Space
Regardless of how you feel about working from home, if you’re doing it with anxiety, make your space work for you! In my case, that means there is a desk fountain, incense, essential oils, candles, and a statue of Buddha near me while I work to help me maintain a Zen state. There is also a new filing cabinet under my desk to ensure my paperwork stays organized, and I have an unnecessarily adorable hand-carved wooden desk organizer featuring a camel (that I have dubbed something very cutesy) to make me smile.
Add Some Visuals
You might want to hang some inspirational posters, or maybe some paintings that inspire joy or promote calm. For those who are responsible enough to keep living things thriving, maybe add some plants to brighten your workspace, or a beautiful fish tank (strategically placed where it can be seen but not cause mayhem for your equipment). For parents, the “visual” can be as simple as hanging a Do Not Disturb sign after commandeering a space with a door. If you still work at the office, the same principles apply. Whatever brings you peace, bring it into your workspace!
Find Your Override
I’ll be honest, it’s kind of a miracle I ended up in the training industry, because in my youth I was the introvert that had to practice my Subway order to avoid panicking when I got to the counter. Luckily, I discovered my social anxiety has an override. The thought of presenting to a class made my knees knock and hands shake, but if I was doing a group project with someone who was also scared, I could suddenly “do the thing.” I can shake off my fear of speaking to crowds if I feel like it’s in the service of someone else. This is my override!
When I speak in front of an audience, I imagine each attendee as a friend that has requested my help in learning the topic I’m presenting. When I speak in front of a crowd that looks less than receptive, I imagine them to be my younger siblings. They don’t know yet that they need to understand and apply what I’m presenting, but I know they will someday. I’ll coax them into engaging and they’ll remember when they need it. I must look out for my family, after all. I imagine the same scenario in the virtual classroom, and I use my voice to make the atmosphere warm and familial.
So, my advice is this—find what works for you! Are you less nervous when you talk about something you’re passionate about? If so, find a way to make a personal connection to any material you teach. Do you feel less nervous when you make a personal connection with your learners? If so, use small talk as a way to get to know them as individuals. Find your override, and make it work for you!
Are you a fellow introvert that somehow found your way into training? Share your story below and tell us how you manage it all!
To learn how to facilitate the virtual classroom with ease, The Virtual Trainer workshop is the perfect place to start. Hope to see you online soon!