5 Physical Exercises to Calm Your Nerves Before a Speech

Just before a speech or presentation you may feel very tense and anxious. This is common and it happens to the best of us. However, one way to relax and become focused is through mild physical and mental exercises – often referred to as ‘loosening up’. In this article, we will cover a few useful physical exercises you can perform to help relieve the tension and reduce anxiety prior to a speech or presentation.

From breathing techniques to stretching, the physical exercises listed here are ideal for beginners and seasoned public speakers alike. The techniques listed here are also good at loosening muscles, increasing blood flow and helping you to feel more relaxed and focused.

  1. Diaphragmatic Breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing or abdominal breathing is technique that contracts and expands a muscle just below the lungs known as the diaphragm in order to facilitate breathing. It is a great technique for relaxation as it requires deep and conscious breathing in order to control the diaphragm which serves as a distraction when stressed or anxious. Couple this technique with a mental/psychological exercise in the next section for a winning combination.
  2. Neck and Shoulder Rolls. Both neck and shoulder rolls are exercises that help relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure. Stress and anxiety can manifest itself within the upper back and neck causing pain and discomfort. Neck and shoulder rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders to stretch the muscles such as trapezius and levator scapulae, when these muscles are tense, it can make you feel stiff and agitated, especially when you are standing such as during a speech or presentation.
  3. Arm Stretches. Stretching your arm muscles relieves the stiffness found within the commonly used arm muscles, such as biceps, triceps and many of the forearm muscles. These muscles are often heavily utilized during a speech or presentation and can play a major role in affecting your mood & comfort while speaking. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  4. Waist Twists. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions. Each of these areas significantly contribute to discomfort and pain which can make you feel agitated and further amplifying any anxieties you may experience. There are a few ways to perform Waist Twists, one popular way is by placing your hands on your hips and rotating your waist in a circular way.
  5. Forward Stretch. Your upper body and core together are literally the backbone of your entire body. Performing forward stretches by touching your toes while keeping your legs together and knees straight will help loosen nearly all of your upper body muscles and gets the blood flowing, making you feel more present, comfortable and relaxed. All key attributes for giving speeches and presentations.

These are just a few simple physical exercises to put you in a calm, relaxed, and focused state of mind before you deliver a speech. Try these exercises yourself and you’ll notice you are more composed and deliver your successful speech with ease. Please do leave your comments, questions and thoughts below. Also, if you enjoyed this post, feel free to join our newsletter for monthly tips on public speaking and leadership.

9 thoughts on “5 Physical Exercises to Calm Your Nerves Before a Speech”

  1. Awesome idea! I’ve never thought of doing exercises to calm nerves before. I think these will work, not only for giving a speech, but for anytime you’re feeling a bit nervous, such as before an interview or a performance or even a first date.

  2. Peter McLaughlin

    I want to add something here that I find helps calming nerves. I know when my anxiety is acting up, putting pressure on the occipital nerves makes a HUGE difference. My doctor once told me that migraines steam from these nerves and tensing is the reason we get them. When you calm the nerves, you ease your tension thus relaxing your whole body. I am book marking this page.

  3. My friend’s wife actually recommended deep breathing to me. She has anxiety and gets panic attacks. I never thought to actually do deep stomach breathing to prepare for public speaking but it makes sense. The more calm you are, the easier it is to think. The easier it is to think, the more you are focused. I also like the other options mentioned here as well. I am going to practice them and get in the habit of doing them before anything stressful.

  4. Great compilation here. Deep breathing helps cool the nerves a lot especially before delivering a speech. it also ease stress and anxiety. forward stretch also work well but i prefer diaphragmatic breathing anytime. I will surely practices all whenever i feel anxious in an event. Thanks!

  5. #1 Fear – Public Speaking. I’m not a public speaking expert but I still think I can handle it. The key for me is to locate where the fear is located in my body, focus on my breathing, slow down and simply smile. If you break the ice with the audience right away, you’ll take off the performance pressure. Good article Joseph!

  6. I always see public speaking as a challenge and therefore training to improve my skills in public speaking, so even though I’m a bit nervous, seeing it as a part of a progress helps to minimize it. I also figured out that at the beginning speaking in simple words and sentence is important because you won’t get stuck this way… Great article here!

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