Countdown Steps To Prepare For Your Next Presentation
I’m often asked, “What can I do to best prepare to speak?” I recommend getting out of your head and into your body. This means, prepare yourself emotionally, physically and mentally weeks in advance. Or if it’s a big deal or event, prepare months in advance. Take the time to get very clear about your purpose and message.
When we feel emotionally tense, our bodies follow suit and tense up. Tension, particularly relating to stage fright, manifests itself in the chest, shoulders, throat, jaw, head and stomach for many people. This results in a kind of “holding oneself in” paralysis. A bit like a rabbit in the headlights – there you are speaking in front of a group and you whisper to yourself – “If I don’t move and look like a chair – they’ll forget I’m here”. Doesn’t work unfortunately. And you aren’t a rabbit.
Tension can also result in a “blank mind” and a disconnect from yourself and your audience. And “head spins” can come from a lack of oxygen (breathing too quickly from your upper chest and not being grounded, so slow it down and feel your feet on floor). It’s interesting that issues relating to the “head” figure so highly when it comes to fearing public speaking. The remedy I recommend is to: “Get out of your head and into your body”. I love this phrase; you’ve probably noticed I use it a lot. It really is a simple counterpoint to speaking nerves and tension.
Follow this countdown to prepare to speak:
Some Weeks Before Your Presentation:
Practice using the Calm Barometer and the Inner Calm Exercise daily to build a new calm habit – follow the links below to these exercises. (These are not quick fixes but a long term solution to retraining your body’s reaction to tension.)
Some Days Before Your Presentation:
Visualise yourself speaking with ease in front of your audience. Consciously choose to relax your traditional tension spots. See yourself taking your time and using the physical exercises written directly below…
The Day Before Your Presentation:
Raise your shoulders to your ears, hold, and release, letting your shoulders gently drop. Repeat twice more. Then, hug yourself tightly, just like you are holding yourself in with tension, and release, throwing your arms generously open, kind of like you are ‘hugging the world” – (I know, I know, it sounds dicky in print, it’s better at my workshops.) These exercises open your chest, face, airways, shoulders and tummy, releasing tension and awakening intention. Go for a walk and stop thinking about your presentation. Daydream. Physical exercise helps you regain perspective and breaks obsessive thoughts. Really, life goes on. Will you remember this presentation in 5 years time? And, will anyone else?
Directly Before Your Presentation:
Take a deep, even breath from the base of your stomach and release evenly. Feel your feet on the floor. Gently roll your shoulders back. This opens your chest, drops your shoulders, opens your throat and magically gives you a confident posture. Imagine the top of your head is suspended by a silken cord and the rest of your body follows effortlessly. (Thank you Alexander technique.) Use your Calm Anchor if you have one and embody your personal strengths.
Directly After Your Presentation:
Rather than go straight back into your head and do a vicious deconstruction of every mistake you made during your presentation – just don’t go there right now. Your adrenaline is pumping and what you need to do is reground yourself so that you continue to be fully present with others – answer questions, accept invitations, make decisions, network and so on. Consciously let your breath flow evenly and let your body take care of dissipating your stress hormones.
The Day After Your Presentation:
Make sure you have been for a walk or engaged in some kind of relaxation activity to switch your brain off and reboot your system. When you have surfaced, it’s time to evaluate you and your presentation constructively:
- How effectively did you handle nervous tension this time?
- When were your listeners most engaged with you?
- How might you do the same presentation again?
- Knowing what you now know, how might you help yourself prepare to speak next time?
When you give yourself the gift of generous time to prepare to speak, you’ll be able to handle speaking tension before, during and after, sooo much better. You’ll also be able to focus on your message and purpose with calm clarity, allowing you to captivate your group with authenticity and presence every time you speak.