In my public speaking, I am often confronted by crowds of hundreds and sometimes even thousands. Do I get nervous? You bet. Every time. Is anyone aware of my nervousness? Not unless they see me in the few minutes before I go on stage, before I have successfully applied the Rowboat Technique. This simple technique allows me to overcome my fears and successfully speak before thousands of people I have never met before. And it will help you in meeting with and speaking to people you have never met before in the interviewing situation.
The Rowboat Technique is a simple contraction of the abdomen in combination with rhythmic breathing that allows you to fully overcome your nervousness in any situation. To understand how to use this technique, sit forward in a chair, arms outstretched, as if you are grabbing oars in a rowboat. Take a deep breath, then slowly pull back your arms and contract the abdominal muscle just below the rib cage. As you continue to let out air, roll the contraction of the muscle downward, just above your pelvic region, centering on your navel. Keep your muscles tight until all of the air has been expelled. Count to three (don't breathe in yet!), then inhale deeply. Repeat this simple process two or three times and you will find that your body is completely relaxed.
To better understand the Rowboat Technique, stop by the gym and sit down at one of the rowing machines. You will gain a firsthand feel for the relaxation brought on by the series of muscle contractions and deep breathing that comes naturally during this type of workout.
So how does this apply with interviewing? Obviously, you don't want to go through all the visual animations in front of the interviewer, but you can still effectively apply this technique. Simply take in a deep breath through your nose, then contract your abdominal muscles in the "top to bottom roll" discussed above as you slowly exhale through slightly parted lips. Hold it at the bottom, take in a deep breath, and you are ready to go. If you are still nervous, simply repeat the technique one or two more times. Even if you are not nervous at the time, it is always a good idea to use this technique as you wait to meet with your interviewer. During the interview, you can use it while the interviewer is speaking to keep potential nervousness in check.
What if you are overcome by nervousness while answering a question? Simply pause, take a deep breath, exhale and contract, then continue. Your nervousness will be noticeable to the interviewer (due to the pause in your answer), but the five-second drill will also show that you are seeking to control your nervousness. If you are able to successfully overcome, I will never hold that pause against you. I will admire your self-control and the positive, proactive action you took to put the interview back on a successful track.
A certain level of nervousness is to be expected during any interview. But how you react to it will determine the overall impact.
This technique is virtually unnoticeable to anyone nearby. I make it a habit to apply this technique several times before going on stage, whether I am feeling nervous or not. You could be seated next to me and be completely unaware of what I am doing. Yet I will effectively put away all my nervousness and prepare myself for a dynamic presentation. You can do the same in preparation for your interview.
Why does it work? Very simply, the muscle contractions prevent the introduction of chemical imbalances into your system that can cause nervousness. The deep breathing helps to dissipate any chemicals that have already been released. It forces the body to prepare physically for the upcoming task. The body begins to focus on producing the positive endorphins needed for the anticipated "rowing" ahead. And this exercise will give your mind the opportunity to focus positively on the actual task of interviewing.
You can use this technique in a variety of circumstances in which you need to focus your mind and body: overcoming anxiety, anger, fright, tension, nausea—even a simple case of stomach butterflies. You can overcome interviewing nervousness, and much more, just by using this simple technique. If you haven't already done so, give it a try right now!