According to a study by Everest University, 92% of adults in the United States experience interview anxiety. But what people rarely talk about is that even the best performers often experience post-performance anxiety. It’s that dreaded feeling of not knowing how your audience or interviewers felt about your performance. It’s that constant replay of better answers you could have given, or alternate frameworks you could have used to tackle a question.
Often, post-presentation anxiety can be as stressful as preparing for a big presentation. Sometimes it seems like there is nothing you can do to cope with the stress. I’ve dealt with this type of anxiety often, and with time and a little bit of help, I’ve found a few ways to alleviate those feelings.
I recently caught up with Ketan Anjaria, founder of Hireclub, right after he finished a pitch to the hallowed YCombinator startup accelerator. He was understandably replaying all the answers he gave in the determinative panel interview. But he had a secret weapon to keep from spiraling in his own thoughts; He had drawn on the his friends, family, and the Hireclub community to support him before and after the interview. He had scheduled a dinner that night with his team. He had let everyone know about his plan for the day, so he naturally received a lot of inbound messages of support immediately after the interview.
“Just being with people who care about me helps with the stress,” he said.
Because post-presentation anxiety is just another form of stress, one of the best stress cures can be used to combat it. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America recommends physical activity to mitigate the physical and psychological effects of stress. Exercise elevates endorphin levels, lessening the chances that you will fixate on what you might perceive as the negative aspects of your presentation. So take a break and get moving!
I’ve often used this mechanism in my own life. When I was pitching venture capitalists for funding for my companies, or presenting to potential customers all over the world, I would often become nervous after my presentation. I would think about all the possibilities that would open up if I received positive feedback, and how I would adjust my strategy if the feedback was negative. It seemed so difficult to do anything else until I actually had the feedback. I learned to cope with this by giving myself a set amount of time to ruminate on all the possibilities. Whether it was a half hour drive to the office, or a 20 minute run, that was time dedicated to worrying or obsessively strategizing. If, later on in my day, my mind wandered towards anxiety, I’d remind myself that I had already thought of all the possibilities. This worked well to keep myself focused on everything else I needed to accomplish.
Anica John is a serial entrepreneur and founder of www.levelup90.com, a professional development platform for women in technology.