Nervous excitement is back!

nervous excitement

After two years of only designing and facilitating online meetings, I’m suddenly immersed in preparing for in-person meetings again. And that strange emotion nervous excitement is coming back!

Two multi-day events, 2,000 miles apart, in the space of a week.

Even an in-person pre-con, just like the old days.

I find it tough preparing for meetings. Creating designs, turning them into implementations, trying hard to not miss any important details, making sure everyone involved knows what they need to know and do, negotiating compromises, contingency planning, etc. Frankly, I feel just plain nervous before the event. It’s stressful. Preparation seems to have no limits — except I know it must end as soon as the meeting starts.

At that moment, nervous excitement takes over.

Nervous excitement

Many meeting professionals, speakers, and performers will know what I mean by nervous excitement. If you don’t, here’s how I described it at the start of my book The Power of Participation:

“When I got on my feet to dance in public for the first time in 32 years I felt a strange mixture of emotions, best described as nervous excitement. I had given up the idea that I had control over what might happen and was all too aware of the scary possibility that I might feel self-conscious or embarrassed. Simultaneously, there was a part of me that was tremendously curious and excited about what I was about to do.”
—Adrian Segar, The Power of Participation, Chapter 1

I feel nervous excitement when I:

  • have the responsibility for making something happen for many people;
  • am aware that what I do matters in the moment;
  • am giving up the illusion of control;
  • feel excited by and open to the possibilities of what might happen.

And then a funny thing happens…

…Usually, these days, I don’t feel nervous excitement that long!

It disappears. To be precise, the “nervous” piece goes away, and I’m left with excitement.

Which is pretty nice.

It wasn’t always like this. When I started standing up in front of meetings, I felt scared of making mistakes, losing control, or failing somehow.

Eventually, I learned that I never had control to begin with, just the myth of control.

And decades of practice showed me that I survive (so far) whatever happens. This emotional learning somehow changed how I felt once I got going. I’ve become brave. And I quickly move into what the psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi called flow, “characterized by the complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting transformation in one’s sense of time.”

I’ve noticed however that if I feel rushed — like at a workshop I gave recently — the nervous component persists. And that’s OK. As a lifelong learner, I continue to accept opportunities to improve my work. Nervous excitement is a vast improvement over the fear I felt when I dared to present and facilitate long ago. Oh, I gotta go, time to step up to the front of the room…

Image by Neil Cummings, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license.