We use rituals in so many areas of our lives. Previously most associated with religion, but now used much more broadly, we see benefits from practising specific actions in a sequence to get us into a certain physical and mental state.
The wonderful thing about rituals and routines that I’ve noticed, is that over time, your desired result can happen faster once your body begins to realize what you’re doing. There are many exercises you can develop into your pre-public speaking ritual. Let’s take a look at what some of them could be:
1. Controlled Breathing
This is the quickest way to reduce the onset of stress response. When your body thinks you’re in danger, it starts to release stress hormones into your blood stream (cortisol, adrenaline) and a myriad of physical responses can happen. Blushing, increased heart rate, shaking hands, a quivering voice, nausea or sweating are just a few of an extensive list.
Once you start to control your breathing pattern, you send a signal to your brain that you’re not, in fact, in danger. Your brain will slowly stop the production of stress hormones. The benefit of practising this every day is that your body begins to recognize what’s happening and knows what to do. Here is an animated gif I made to help you in your practise.
2. Read and Repeat
You should build the routine of practising your presentation into your pre-presentation ritual. Practise will stimulate your memory and keep your desired outcomes fresh in mind: how you want to emphasize certain areas of your speech, where you’ve decided to include a physical gesture, which words should get extra volume, etc.
3. Stretching and Exercise
I love to do my 30 minute stretch on mornings when I have a workshop or presentation. I’ve read in a few places that going for a run or doing a workout a few hours before a presentation is an excellent way to burn off excess nervous energy, so that you can stay focused.
4. Meditation and Mindfulness
Calming and grounding, whatever meditation or mindfulness exercises that you best respond to should be an addition to your preparation ritual. There are a number of these exercises available on YouTube. Surf around a little bit and find one that you really like.
5. Religious or Spiritual Practices
If you have any personal religious or spiritual practises (like praying or reading tarot cards), these can be grounding and can get you into the right mindset ahead of the presentation.
What else can you think of to add to your ritual before you speak? Certainly, specific exercises related to voice work can be added, as well as something as simple as drinking water. Make a list of what you think might be helpful and try to develop a ritual that works for you!