I just ran across this great article again about a scientific study that indicates that trying to get excited rather than relaxed can be more effective in high-anxiety moments. Whether you struggle with anxiety and panic attacks or not, like most people you probably do feel anxious before a public presentation. Maybe you tried to relax - maybe you took a sip of water, or walked up and down a hallway, or even did some breathing exercises. Did it make you feel better? According to a research study out of Harvard, there is a more effective way of preparing for high-anxiety situations like public speaking - don't try to relax, get excited instead!
The research effort actually consisted of three separate studies, each one designed to measure the impact of saying "I am excited" versus other statements like "I am relaxed" before performing some type of anxiety-inducing public presentation. My favorite of the three studies involved people playing a video game that involved singing along to various rock songs. Before each performance, participants were asked to say that they were anxious, excited, calm, angry, or sad. Participants that simply said "I am excited" scored an average of 80% on their performances, while "calm," "angry," or "sad" participants scored an average of 69%, and "anxious" participants scored an average of 53%. Perhaps even more interesting is that people who were asked to say "I am excited" reported that they enjoyed the testing experience more often than the other participants.
How neat is that?! The bottom line is that in high-anxiety situations like public speaking, it can be difficult to try to calm yourself down, but you'll likely do a better job and enjoy the experience more if you try to get excited instead.