My Pre-speech Routine

05.03.2018 |

Episode #9 of the course Conquer fear of public speaking by Dr. Paul Harrison


Although I’ve been presenting or lecturing for almost half of my life now, I still get that tingle of butterflies, the tightness in the throat, the dry mouth. The fact is, conquering fear of something will never guarantee its absence, but rather it instills a set of tools and methods to overcome that fear or act regardless of it.

Here are a few of the techniques I use when I’m facing a big presentation, speech, or camera work (particularly live television work).

Reframing the fear. “I’m excited.” That’s the mantra that runs through my head when I feel the pangs of anxiety and anticipation. The sensations are quite closely related, and our interpretation of our nervous system response plays a significant role in our ability to channel and focus it. It’s our interpretation that determines if we move forward or fall prey to a panic loop. Telling myself that I’m excited helps me harness that energy and channel it to enhance my performance. Preparation can limit and control your nervous response, and you can use that leftover adrenaline to create infectious enthusiasm.

Exercising. Exercise resets our nervous system, increases oxygen, and promotes correct blood flow. The form this takes can vary from a brisk walk to weight training. Do whatever you normally would to get the blood pumping, and remember to take it easy. You don’t want to exhaust or even injure yourself before your presentation!

Breathing. On the morning of a presentation, I’ll do several rounds of breathing exercises (Lesson 3). I find this state “primes” me to be less emotionally reactive and supports parasympathetic function.

Later, closer to the presentation, I’ll maybe do a few rounds of square, or box, breathing (breathing in for four seconds, holding for four seconds, exhaling for four seconds, and holding the exhale for four seconds). Often, I’ll take ten deep abdominal breaths and hum or “omm” (mouth closed) on the out breath to stimulate the glossopharyngeal nerve (Lesson 5). This has the added benefit of warming up the throat before I do my vocal warm-ups.

Vocal warm-ups and tongue twisters. I often used to skip my vocal warm-ups, whether talking or singing, but once I realized their power for enhancing my performance, strengthening my voice, and calming my nerves, I never skipped them again. They also help prevent damage to the vocal cords, so they are crucial before projecting the voice.

I’ll usually start with humming scales—humming is a gentle way to prepare the voice and ensure that I don’t use too much power or volume. Next, I’ll do the “La, Ga” and “Ta, Ya” scales from Lesson 5. Then, I’ll do a few sets of casual lip trills, which involves creating a loose “brrrrr” sound through the mouth to loosen the lips.

Finally, I’ll run through my vowel sounds and possibly do some tongue twisters to remind me to keep my diction clear.

Congratulations! You faced your fears and got to the end! You’ve learned the first crucial steps needed to understand, harness, and conquer your fear of public speaking. Thank you for joining me on this journey. I wish you the best of luck with your upcoming presentations and hope to see you all gracing stage and screen in the near future!


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Recommended reading

Box Breathing Technique


Recommended video

How to Warm Up with a Lip Trill | Vocal Lessons


Recommended book

Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds


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