Rituals To Lessen the Nervousness

CHICAGO–Planning to begin making more presentations in 2019, or even expanding into public speaking? It’s no secret public speaking affects people in different ways, but many become jittery and anxious before they talk. But there are rituals that can be practiced to lessen the nervousness.

Writing on Harvard Business Reviews HBR.org, Nancy Duarte, author of the HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations and other books, offered these four  types of pre-talk rituals to consider trying before you go onstage.

Corner Public Speaking Graphic

Empathy Rituals

Empathy rituals help you connect better to the people in your audience, said Duarte.

“You can build empathy by working the room before your talk to connect with attendees — ask them questions, learn what they’re interested in. Another technique is to zero in on a friendly face that you know in the audience from backstage. Or look at the stage from your audience’s vantage point,” Duarte recommended.

Duarte said speakers should consider trying a pre-talk empathy ritual if you:

  • Are speaking to an audience you don’t relate to
  • Get stage fright and clam up while speaking, losing your personality
  • Have high-stakes content that simply has to resonate

Exertion Rituals

An exertion ritual before a talk is just what it sounds like: you exert yourself before you speak in order to get your heart moving, feel in touch with your body, and boost your energy levels, Duarte explained.

“Exertion can amp you up, and it can also reduce the amount of anxiety you feel, since it naturally reduces the level of the stress hormones in your body. There are lots of ways to execute an exertion ritual, like doing a brief workout, dancing to hip hop music in your hotel room, or jumping up and down backstage,” said Duarte.

Speakers should consider trying a pre-talk exertion ritual if they:

  • Are presenting at a high-energy, upbeat event
  • Feel ambivalent about the subject and need to appear excited
  • Tend to lack dynamism in your delivery 

Spiritual Rituals

Spiritual rituals are like the moments of silence and stillness often experienced backstage, said Duarte, whose own rituals include prayer, meditation, contemplation, and expressing gratitude for the opportunity. 

“Spiritual rituals can help quell jitters and make you feel grounded and positive,” Duarte wrote. “What I do is breathe in slowly and deeply and exhale thoroughly each time. I do that three times and on the third inhale I do three short bursts of trying to get even more air in my lungs and then I exhale slowly. It calms me down.”

Duarte said speakers should consider trying a pre-talk spiritual ritual if they:

  • Are a naturally amped up person
  • Tend to get extremely jittery or anxious before speaking in public
  • Have a spiritual practice that grounds you

Mantra-Based Rituals

Mantra-based rituals are ones that help you prepare by using repetition and self-talk for soothing. 

“Try repeating your favorite mantra to yourself before you go onstage,” said Duarte. “For example, you might say, ‘I’m there to give, not receive’ or ‘Just be present and be yourself.’

Speakers should consider trying a pre-talk mantra-based ritual if they:

  • Feel soothed by repetition
  • Have a phrase or pattern of words that comforts you
  • Use self-talk to make you more comfortable or bold
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