A Moment’s Panic

Last month I was finishing my setup for a webinar when something unexpected happened.

I was using Zoom, as I have for four years, and when I shared my screen it looked very different: I was in my slides! I was overlaid on my introduction, confined to the bottom left like a TV news presenter.

I panicked.

For five seconds I looked at the options, the images, the words, the clock in the corner ticking to when I had to start talking. For five seconds I panicked and frozen whilst also doing 101 things.

And then I remembered a key idea from my session: pause, think, respond.

  • I closed my eyes and took a breath. For five more seconds I just stopped.
  • I opened my eyes and looked at the screen and thought. What mattered here?
  • I responded and stopped the screen share. I still had time. I was no longer looking at the wrong thing. With no active problem in front of me, could I find the right thing?

Five seconds later I did and everything was fine.

It was a simple update to Zoom’s interface. An extra option and a change to the default. Something unexpected, leading to a very stressful thirty seconds.

After years of doing things one way – whether it’s Zoom or your research – it could be surprising or even panicking to be faced with something different.

In your viva, you might encounter questions you’ve not considered. You might hear an opinion that is counter to your own. You might need to think about options you’ve not thought through before. Any of these might cause a moment’s panic, but if that happened it’s OK.

Pause. Think. Respond.

Take your time. Get past the panic. Work past the worry. Respond as best you can.