So it's the moment you've been dreading (or excitedly anticipating, depending on your outlook): You're about to step into the metaphorical (or literal) spotlight and deliver your speech, presentation or monologue.
If you're anything like me your heart is threatening to make a quick getaway and your mouth is as dry as the contents of a hoover bag.
How do you avoid stumbling onto the platform and muttering an incomprehensible introduction into the perplexed faces of your listeners? Try these 4 things:
1) Focus on your BREATH
This is the best thing you can do just before your speech. All of my public speaking coaching starts with proper breathing technique. If your breath is deep, supported, and steady you can control that nervous wobble in your voice. Great breathing technique takes time to develop but a lovely little quick fix is to scan through your body and imagine that you are breathing in and out through different areas.
Try it now:
Imagine you are breathing in through the feet and out through the knees. Stay with that for three breaths.
Then work upwards, imagining the breath coming in through the knees and out through the hip bones.
Then in through the hip bones and out through the bellybutton
Then in through the belly button and out through the chest etc, until you've worked your way through the whole body.
This will ground you in the present moment and allow you to drop into a slower, more supported breath.
2) Bite your tongue.
Gently, I hasten to add!
This is another great little quick fix if you are suffering from a dry mouth. A soft little nip to the tongue will encourage saliva, creating a temporary fix. Goodbye mouth full of sawdust!
3) Repeat a positive affirmation.
My chosen words are 'I've got this.' I often repeat this in my head just before a performance. Those are the particular words that make me feel grounded and reassured, but you may find others that work for better for you. Even if you currently don't feel you do got this, repeating it will help shift your focus away from negative expectations and encourage your brain to accept the new positive statement as fact.
4) Open your arms
When we are nervous, our instinct is to
retreat inwards. Expansive gestures can help us feel more powerful. If you have a private moment just before your speech, open your arms out wide, think about sending your energy to the audience you are about to speak to. If you are sitting amongst the audience whilst waiting for your speech, you can sit up straight in your chair, spread your legs a tiny bit wider, open through your shoulders, imagine your body filling with light and positive energy. Anticipate sharing your moment with the people around you. Your speech or presentation can teach them something, move them, reveal something important to them, or help them in some way. Remembering your audience are individuals in need of your expertise, not a judgmental faceless crowd, will ease your nerves and remind you of the reason you are there: To connect.
Rachel Brady is a Public Speaking & Actors' Audition Coach.
Book your first session today.