Everybody suffers from nerves just before making an important presentation. Even the old pros who have been doing it for what seems like a lifetime. Any speaker who denies that truth is either lying to you, or even worse, lying to themselves. A speaker who lies to himself or herself about suffering from nerves just before going on stage is doing themselves a great disservice. They are keeping themselves from becoming all that they could be as a speaker. We may experience the jitters for many reasons. We may feel that we have not prepared properly for the presentation. We may feel that we are not as expert on our subject as we should be. We may feel unprepared to face the audience Q&A session that will follow your formal presentation. You may feel that you will be facing a hostile audience. No matter what the underlying causes of your jitters are, you can alleviate those jitters in just five minutes before taking the stage.
The process that I am about to share with you here will transport you from your self-conscious, nervous state to a “Productive Level of Relaxation.” This relaxation technique will put you in “The Zone”, that sweet spot where every speaker wants to be, no matter how important or unimportant his or her presentation may be for his or her career.
This is a simple breathing exercise.
The first step in the exercise is to find a quiet place, a place of solitude. You don’t have to go to a Tabetian Monastery or a mountain retreat to find your place of solitude. A hotel or motel room will do nicely. Your car parked out in front of the venue where you will be speaking will work OK too. Even a stall in the restroom will suffice in a pinch. Anywhere where you can sit comfortably with your feet flat on the floor will do for this five minute breathing exercise.
The second step is to close your eyes and close out the external world. You objective here is to concentrate on what is happening within your body. For the first minute, listen to every breath that you take. Notice what is happening in your body as you breathe slowly and calmly. Experience the sensation with your body, not with your mind. Feel each breath as it travels from your mouth to your lungs, bringing with it, life giving oxygen. Transporting life sustaining oxygen to every cell in your living body.
Third, focus on a visual image that you create in your mind. The image should consist of a neutral shape—a circle, a triangle or a square. The figure should have a neutral color—a green, a yellow, a blue or some shade of green, yellow or blue.
Fourth, focus on that single image, making it as crystal clear as possible. Adopt a passive attitude while focusing on this single image. While doing this, other thoughts will enter your mind. Take note of them and then let them go on their way. Stay totally focused on your chosen image. Do nothing, just let your awareness be.
Fifth, after five minutes, your breathing will have become much slower and much deeper. Open you eyes slowly and rise to a standing position. Maintain this relaxed state as you leave your place of solitude and take the stage to make your presentation.
This breathing exercise to reduce presentation jitters is no substitute for practicing your presentation, it is an adjunct to that practice. Every speaker needs to practice his or her presentation until they can be ready to give it on a moments notice because that’s when they will need it most.