Centre Before you Speak:
How to find your peace before you open your mouth
The audience is waiting expectantly while you stand there, for what seems like an eternity, before you open your mouth and nothing comes out. Your heart is pounding, your legs are shaking, and yet you didn’t feel any of this when you practiced your speech yesterday….
Ever felt like this before? I know I have.
Learning how to centre ourselves before we speak is a skill that comes with practice, but you can start learning that skill by managing a few of your own (completely natural) responses to public speaking.
When we are about to speak or perform, our bodies’ natural response to this act can sabotage our best-laid plans. Without getting into a whole bunch of research about your body’s response to stress, let’s say it’s likely that the sense of fight, flight, or freeze may occur.
But, by using a few simple tricks and tools outlined below, you can find that ‘inner peace’ before you speak a word.
By managing your breath rate, you’ll also manage your heart-rate and the sound of your voice. Here are three different ways to manage your breath before you speak.
- Take 3 measured breaths before you walk on stage. Breathe in through your nose slowly to a count of 4 (or up to 8, if you want), sustain (pause) when you’re comfortably ‘full’, then slowly exhale on a ‘sssssssss’ sound to that same count of 4 (or 8). Inhale peace, exhale anxiety. Repeat as many times as necessary.
- If you can, lay on the floor for 5 minutes (set a timer) and focus on your belly rising and falling for the first 10 breaths. Then allow your breath to fall into its ‘natural’ pattern for you. Practice this at home each day leading up to your talk, then, if you can’t lay down, practice it standing up.
- When you start to speak, breathe/expand from your lower torso/belly. This provides a more solid and supportive breath for your speaking and keeps you from shallow ‘nervous’ breathing.
Standing up ‘straight’ often creates extra tension we don’t need. Instead, explore what freedom in posture can be like.
- Practice in the shoes you will wear on stage, so you know what it will feel like to walk in them, breathe in them, and speak. It’s your connection to the ground.
- Stand with a tall and free spine, as if you have a gorgeous crown on your head. Visualise that you can move gracefully with ease.
- It brightens your eyes, lifts your mood, and puts others at ease, too.
Your mind is powerful. But it’s not ‘set’.
Exploring new possibilities can give you the freedom to approach your speech with ease.
- Remember that the audience wants you to succeed. It’s ok to tell them how you are feeling in the moment.
- Practice your materials in advance. A lot. The higher the stakes, the more you prepare. Unless you know your topic SO well, and you’ve spoken about it a gazillion times (but then you probably wouldn’t be needing or reading this).
- Mistakes happen. Technology fails happen. Always respond with grace and good humour and be prepared to speak without your technology prompts.
Finding your own centre could also include listening to relaxing music, using the Emotional Freedom Technique, or any other type of modality that will support you. Experiment with some of the above tips and let me know how you go.
If you are still having trouble finding your centre, then book a free call with me to explore that a bit more. No icky sales tactics or pressure. Simply a conversation to support your success.
Other questions about speaking? Feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jen Lang, Voice and Communications Coach