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.

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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