Relaxation techniques for public-speaking

Relaxation techniques for public speaking

Posted on 12th October 2017 in Presentation Skills Training, Public Speaking

I read with interest in the news this week about BAFTA award winning actress Olivia Coleman’s stage fright. Who would expect an established experienced actress to be frightened in front of an audience? Performers always look so confident on stage, that’s their job right? Her anxiety was so strong that she undertook cognitive hypnotherapy to help her get over her nerves on the first night.

“Willy [Olivia Williams] is having a chat and a coffee, I’m back there squeezing my knuckles and going through the things of [chanting] circle of love, circle of love, breathe out love”. 

Stage fright or nervousness before or during a performance is more common than you think. Thank goodness more and more celebrities are now opening up about how they have dealt with stage fright and anxiety.

This should reassure the regular person in the work environment who is apprehensive of giving a presentation or key note speech. Its natural to feel nervous the last thing you want to do is fail in front of an audience.
I remember Emma Watson’s big speech at the United Nations. She did brilliantly, she spoke passionately from the heart and her speech was extremely well received by everyone. She did however admit being very nervous saying to Elle Uk ‘I was very nervous. It wasn’t an easy thing for me to do. It felt like: ‘Am I going to have lunch with these people, or am I going to be eaten? Am I the lunch?   

Most of us who are in management or leadership positions can’t get away from speaking in public. We need to present our ideas, talk to our teams, persuade, inspire and sell on a regular basis. So you’ve got to get over it or at least find a way to deal with it!

Q What can be done to overcome and or deal with stage fright / performance nerves?

Take lessons from professional actors and performers

Relaxation techniques for public-speaking

Relaxation techniques for public-speaking

Actors and singers always undertake breathing exercises before rehearsals and before performances.
When we are feeling stressed and nervous we tend to breather shallowly. We breathe in sharply and we don’t breathe out properly. After a few breaths the lack of oxygen in our body exacerbates our nerves. It sounds simple but all you’ve got to do is BEATHE deeply and diaphragmatically and your body and mind will relax. Before any situation where you are potentially feeling anxious or apprehensive take 15 minutes to sit somewhere quietly and do some deep breathing.
Visualise yourself in that performance being hugely successful. See yourself relaxed, smiling, confidently walking that stage as people listen intently to your message. Practice, practice practice that visualisation until your sub-conscious believes that is what is going to happen.
Actors rehearse, rehearse, rehearse what they go to say and do for weeks before a performance. It’s all in the preparation. Make sure you are well prepared and know your material well enough. You don’t need to learn your presentation word for word, you just need to know the salient points and in which order and then talk naturally around those key points.

If you’ve done all of the above and you are still wracked with nerves. CHANGE YOUR STATE. Move your body. Do whatever it takes to change your focus. Bend down and tie your shoe lace. Go to the bathroom and make some shapes. Walk down the corridor deep breathing. Talk to someone on the phone about something completely different. Do some star jumps, yoga moves, whatever it takes to change your state from being frozen thinking about your nerves.

‘There are only two types of speakers in this world – 1. Nervous 2. Liars’ 

Rest assured that the majority of the planet feel the same as you when speaking in public. If you can practice the four techniques above I promise you will feel less fear and hugely more relaxed and confident. The less fear you feel the more your confidence will improve. And as you experience yourself wowing your audience you will lose your anxiety until you are totally relaxed speaking in public.

Sartaj Garewal is the founder of Dynamic Presenting – a creative, leadership development consultancy, adapting theatre training to create leadership programs for business.

Dynamic Presenting – Enabling Powerful Communication