Pre-Presentation Routines To Help With Public Speaking Nerves by Peter Dhu

Definition of Routines = a sequence of actions regularly followed

We all know that public speaking is tough for many people. It creates nerves, fear and anxiety. And public speaking still rates as one of the greatest fears of human beings. And for many of us, the nerves, anxiety and fear often kicks in just before or leading up to our presentation. So, what can we do to reduce this tension and worry around public speaking that will allow us to have more control and confidence?

Many athletes, musicians, actors and performers have what they call “pre performance rituals” or routines. They go through a series of planned routines and steps before every game, before every shot, before every kick.

Here are some routines or rituals that other people adopt before an important public speaking event.

Do a Power Pose

Amy Cuddy delivered the now famous TED Talk on body language and the Power Pose. The act of filling the space, thinking big and hands on hips all added to the confidence before walking on stage. She related the power pose to faking it until you become it. Just imagine what you would say to a shy nervous colleague who came to you for advice on nerves before an important presentation. You would advise them to stand up, smile, walk on like you own the stage. The power pose helps you feel confident and makes you look confident in the eyes of the audience before you even walk on stage to start public speaking.

Deep Breathing Exercises

Michael Grinder emphasises the importance of low deep breathing. This is as opposed to shallow high breathing. Deep breathing is when your diaphragm expands with an inhalation and contracts with an exhalation. A simple test is to put your hands around your belly button. When you breathe in your hands should be pushed outwards and when you exhale your hands should move back inwards. If your hands do not move, then you are probably breathing shallow and high up in your lungs. Deep breathing is a great routine to do before public speaking.

Focus on Your Message And How It Will Benefit The Audience

Public speaking is about your audience and it delivers a message for your audience. Before public speaking, focus on the benefits and the values of your message to the audience. If you get in the routine of putting your audience first, rather than yourself first, you will be better positioned to control your pre presentation nerves. After all “it is about the audience, not me the presenter”.

Practise Warming Up With Tongue Twisters, Key Phrases and Your Opening 60 Seconds.

Before performing, singers and actors warm up their voices. Before reading the news or going on radio, radio broadcasters warm up their voices. Before athletes go for a run, they warm up their muscles. Before public speaking, I like to warm up my voice and say a few phrases that will test my vocal agility. I like to practise my first 30 to 60 seconds as an introduction. This both helps me to warm up my voice and nail my opening, allowing my public speaking to start with a strong foundation. This is great for the nerves.

And I have another ritual that I do before public speaking. You don’t have to worry about this one. As a person who stutters, I spend 10 minutes practising my fluency technique, slowing down soft contacts, breathing and continuous air flow when speaking. I need to do this in private as it sounds strange.

Sleep Well And Hydrate

Being in your “peak performance state”, before public speaking, is a great way to be. I will go to bed early and sleep well. I will wake early and drink lots of water. On a day that I am speaking I will avoid milk and protein drinks that will coat my vocal chords. I still need caffeine, so on those days I will have a black coffee. I have a habit if having water up front with me and sipping it during my presentation. If you are a little nervous, you can drink apple juice that will help lubricate your vocal apparatus. Find a routine that works for you that allows you to be well rested and well hydrated before every public speaking event that you do.

These are some of the routines that I follow with every presentation and public speaking workshop. The routines are now my habits. This means they are automated, take no energy, they take care of themselves and that frees me up to focus more on being present and grounded for my audience.

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