It’s the day of a big presentation and you’re so nervous you can’t think straight. Your heart is beating, your palms are sweating, and your shoulders are tense. A million “should have’s” are running through your mind: “I should have practiced more…I should have joined Toastmasters…I should have gone to bed early.”
10 years ago, I remember coaching a group of college students the day they presented their leadership projects to donors, parents, and professors. In the hallway outside the conference room they clustered around me, clamoring for help to calm down. They were so nervous, they couldn’t eat dinner.
Has that ever happened to you?
I led them through the following excise which I use with each and every client, from emerging leaders to senior executives.
No matter our background or level of experience, we all get nervous before a speech or presentation.
Click on the video below to watch a clip that guides you through these exercises, recorded on beautiful Candlewood Lake in Brookfield, CT, and share this with your friends, family or colleagues to help them before an upcoming speech.
Here are 5 steps to calm your nerves right before a speech.
Step 1: Find a quiet place where you can be alone. It might be your office, your hotel room, or even a public restroom at the venue where you are speaking.
Step 2: Get rid of nervous energy. Start by shaking out your arms and legs, one at a time. Stretch out your face to lightly loosen your jaw. Do vocalized lip trills to warm up your voice. Find the right posture for speaking: raise your arms up while you take a deep breath in, then slowly exhale while you lower your arms, keeping your rib cage up. This is the best posture for speaking with confidence.
Step 3: Center yourself. Take deep breaths into your stomach, feeling the energy fill your body. As you exhale, center yourself and be present in the moment. Don’t think about anything other than your breath. Take another breath in and slowly exhale.
Step 4: Remind yourself, “Why You?” Those of you who have worked with me know I like to ask the question “Why you?” constantly. Why do you do what you do? Why do you care about this speech subject and about your audience? Answer those questions out loud. If you have a core value statement, read that out loud. This exercise connects you with your sense of purpose so that you stop focusing on your nerves and instead focus on your message and the impact you want to have on the audience.
Step 5. Run through your opening and closing. The only parts I recommend you memorize in your speech are the first and last sentences, so that when you walk out on stage, you are prepared to start and end with power and purpose.
After you go through these 5 steps, you are ready to give your speech. Look for the smiling, nodding heads in the crowd, smile back at them, and begin to speak. When you’re done, immediately debrief the experience – watch our quick tip video about that.
Public speaking is a skill, not a talent.
Everybody gets nervous before a speech or presentation, but the more you speak, the more confident, comfortable, and authentic you will feel.
Try these exercises and send the video above to your friends, family, or colleagues who are nervous about an upcoming speech or presentation. You will be great!