Sales Presentation Anxiety, Cortisol Levels, Self-Reports, and Gene-Gene Interactions

We study sales presentation anxiety (SPA) using multilevel analysis of a quasi-natural field experiment: the final exam of an executive training course where sales professionals (n = 128) compete in teams to present an account plan to a critical audience who then ask questions and evaluate their performance. The best team is announced the winner of the competition. Compared to pre-presentation levels, overall cortisol (C) levels first increased after the question period and subsequently decreased 20 and 50 minutes after, indicating a relatively fast recovery rate. Negative significant correlations were found between self-reported experience of stress and C levels in periods 3 and 4 which might indicate affect labeling, a coping technique that focuses on the underlying physiological response. Using two candidate genes, DRD2 and DRD4 , we investigated associations between C levels in the four periods. Carriers of DRD2 Taq A1 + and DRD4 7R + alleles had lower C levels compared to non-carriers, both right after the question period and 20 minutes later which might indicate flexibility in using coping strategies involving distraction from the task. The gained insights reveal that SPA entails multilevel processes that affect one another reciprocally.

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