5 Mental Tricks to Calm Your Nerves Before a Speech

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The brain is the most powerful organ in your body. It dictates your every move, thought and reaction. By properly harnessing this power through mental and psychological exercises, you can learn how to control and fine-tune your emotions. This is especially valuable during times of anxiety and stress, such as before a speech or presentation.

Visualization. The first mental exercise is visualization. Visualization according to medical definition is the formation of mental visual images and in the context of this article, an example would be producing an image in your mind of a calming setting. As an example, visualize a small isolated island with a light wind, gentle waves of water surrounding you and the calming sound of nature such as seagulls faintly squawking in the distance. Visualization helps clear your mind and reduces the impact that a potentially stressful situation would have.

Progressive Relaxation. The next exercise is called Progressive Relaxation. Progressive Relaxation is a psychological exercise that is based on the theory that muscle tension is a physiological response to anxiety and anxiety-provoking thoughts, such as worrying about an upcoming speech. Progressive Relaxation is a relatively longer exercise that utilizing other exercises, both physical and mental. You can perform Progressive Relaxation by finding a quiet place to sit on the floor with your legs crossed then take deep, controlled breaths while performing light stretches and while visualizing a positive setting. This exercise works by distracting your mind and relieve pressure on your deep muscles that cause the most tension.

Inner Critic. You are your own biggest critic and it is this inner critic that is responsible for the largest influence on your mood. Properly channeling your inner critic and improving your ‘self-talk’ is an important exercise when you are under pressure or face criticism. You can channel your inner critic by identifying your weaknesses and thinking of ways that you could do better. Avoid the ‘beating yourself up’ approach and instead opt for constructive, positive feedback on how you can improve.

Find your ‘happy place’. When you are facing a potentially anxiety-inducing situation, isolating yourself mentally or physically in a ‘happy place’ can be an effective way to relax and ease tensions. To help find your happy place, surround yourself with positivity, laughter, friendly people, environmental beauty, uplifting music and anything else that makes you feel calm and confident. This technique works by elevating your mood by helping you focus on the positives all around you.

Conjure Positivity. Conjure a positive idea, setting or concept and use it as inspiration. This can help distract you from negative thoughts such as the worries of an upcoming speech or presentation. It will also allow you to focus, helps restore your confidence and improves your overall mood.

So give these mental hacks a try and feel more calm and focused as a speaker/leader. If you have questions, please post them in the comments below or join our newsletter for ongoing insights into speaking and leadership mastery.

Joseph Guarino is a professional public speaker, trainer and owner of the Institute of Public Speaking a Boston based international public speaking & leadership training organization. As a seasoned public speaking trainer & professional speaker he enjoys helping other succeed in this worthy and rewarding craft. The Institute of Public Speaking offers a variety of public speaking courses for individuals (1 on 1 training), executive speech coaching, one day public speaking bootcamps, advanced public speaking bootcamps and public speaking seminars for corporations & groups of any size.
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