5 Techniques to Help Reduce Stress & Calm Nerves Before Presenting

22 Apr

“There are only two types of speakers in the world: 1. The nervous and 2. Liars.” – Mark Twain.

Every speaker has feelings of nervousness or anxiousness before taking the stage. And that’s okay.  The important piece is to not let your nerves get the best of you and to learn to focus that energy in a positive way – like turning it into excitement.

Below are five different ways to help reduce performance anxiety and calm your nerves before taking the stage to present.

Body language:

Have you ever heard the old adage, “It”s not what you say, it’s how you say it”? Of course you have, and that’s because it is true. Research indicates that your nonverbal queues are what account for the major percentage of communication. This means the clothes you wear, the way you wear them, your hair styles, personal hygiene, body stance, vocal pitch, vocal intonations and so much more – that you don’t say – actually are what can help impart your message to the audience, or distract from it.

Takeaway: Set yourself up for success before you even take the stage by making sure you have on appropriate attire and good personal hygiene. Take this a step further by finding a type of outfit, color or something else that you can wear that makes you not only feel appropriate, but also like a million dollars. If you feel like a million dollars, your confidence will permeate right through it.

Get enough rest:

Sleep plays a major role in your mental health and physical health. And the way that you feel while you’re awake, depends largely on the amount and the quality of your sleep.  If you’ve had a good night sleep your body is able to support your body and your brain to make sure you’re able to perform your best.  No foggy brains allowed here.

Takeaway: Most everybody is nervous before presenting, thus the sleep leading up to the day of your presentation is important. An hour or two before getting into bed, find ways to calm your brain from your presentation. It may be a good idea to walk-through your presentation with the intention of it being your last time, or create a to-do list for the next day to release it from your brain. And then as you’re trying to fall asleep, find a familiar and comfortable position that can assist in the progression of sleep. Meditation, focused breathing and even some relaxing chamomile tea can help your body feel more relaxed and ready for sleep as well.   If you want to learn more ways to natural fall asleep, check out this Huffington Post article.

 

Power Poses:

“Fake it until you become it” is the famous line from social psychologist, Amy Cuddy. Our body doesn’t only convey a message to others non-verbally, it helps define who we are and how we view ourselves.  Cuddy’s research found that these power poses will increase testosterone, the dominance gene, and decrease the stress hormone, cortisol – enabling you to feel more confident.  Thus, just a few minutes of power-posing will actually change your body chemistry to help enhance your performance.

Takeaway: Take advantage of this by completing power poses for 2 or more minutes before each presentation. The following images come directly from Cuddy’s TED Talk and are just two of the ones you can do beforehand. I’m a fan of the “superwoman” pose on the right.

 

Watch Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk here.


Breathing techniques:

Understand that what you’re feeling is completely normal. And understand, the more you prepare for your presentations and the more you speak, the more comfortable you’ll become over time. Because let’s face it, becoming comfortable with public speaking doesn’t just happen overnight. However, a few simple breathing techniques can help you to either calm down or brighten up with energy.

Equal breathing for relaxation:

Take a deep breath in for four counts through your nose, and then exhale for four counts through your nose. Breathing through your nose will add natural resistance to the breath. This technique is best for relaxation as it will help your mind focus away from your racing thoughts before taking the stage. Bonus, this can even be used before falling asleep.

Abdominal breathing for focus:

Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on the belly. Deeply inhale through the nose, making sure the diaphragm – not the chest – inflates. You want to take in enough air to stretch the lungs. Shoot for 6 – 10 deep, slow breaths each minute for 10 minutes total. This technique has been known to help folks see an immediate decrease in heart rate, as well as blood pressure.  This can be done before any upcoming stressful even like before a major interview, exam or even before meeting your significant other’s parents.

Alternate nostril breathing

My personal favorite and a little more difficult. Place your right thumb on your right nostril and breath in as deep as you can. Then at the moment of no more inhalation, plug your left nostril with your right hand’s ring finger – and let go of your right nostril and exhale all the way. Then repeat immediately with your left nostril plugged. Nadi shodhana said this breathing technique will help to “clear the channels” and acts as a cup of coffee giving you immediate energy and focus.

Bonus: If you really want to help train and pace your breath – try To McConnell’s biofeedback Breathe Strong app.

 

Remember, have a good time. 

If you’ve practiced and created a great presentation for your audience, now is the time to just relax and have fun with it. Recent research has indicated there are many benefits of being in a natural and relaxed state - like added mental focus, improved immune system, improved body awareness, etc.  These might seem like small things, but when you’re relaxed your body will thank you by helping you perform better, but also your audience will be more relaxed as well.

Takeaway:  When you’re relaxed and having fun, your natural passion for what your saying will shine through. And when you’re more relaxed, your audience will be too, which is actually quite important as they’re looking to you to provide a great experience. You are also able to better “roll with the punches” and also let go of any thoughts that you have to be “perfect.” Because let’s face it – nobody is perfect.

Lastly, just be yourself. When you’re not trying to be Simon Sinek, Zig Ziglar or Nancy Duarte, you’re able to be you –  which is the most natural of all. 

Remember: “It’s all right to have butterflies in your stomach. Just get them to fly in formation.”  -Rob Gilbert

 

Do you have any techqniues that you use to relax before taking the stage? If so, feel free to share them below. 

 

The #1 trick to improve a public speaker’s confidence while on stage

15 Apr

Whether you’re brand new to public speaking or a seasoned veteran, one thing remains the same – you should always find your “partners.”

A “partner” is a term coined by TED speaker and author of “Start with Why” - Simon Sinek. And you may have heard of them referred to before but by a different name – as professional speaker Dr. Michelle Mazur calls them SAMs (Spectacular Audience Members).

Regardless of the name the premise behind them remains the same – they are audience members that help you calm your nerves to feel comfortable on stage. And most often without even realizing it, their body language represents eagerness and approval in what you’re saying which is what every speaker needs to see and feel when presenting or speaking to groups.

Many people tend to overlook how the body language of audience members impact the presentation. FLICKR IMAGE @Corbis

Many people tend to overlook how the body language of audience members impact the presentation.
FLICKR IMAGE @Corbis

 

How to identify partners in a group

Every audience should have a few – they’re the folks that are on your side before you’ve already stepped up to the lectern on the stage.  And when you’re speaking to the group, you’ll notice them because their body language is screaming, “Yes, yes! I totally understand what you’re saying and I like where you’re going with this.”

Once you know what you’re looking for in an audience member, finding a partner can be easy.  The non-verbal cues that you’re looking for are most evident when scanning the crowd during your presentation, but you can try to find them as soon as you take the stage as well.

The following are telltale signs of a partner or SAM in the audience:

  • They’re leaning forward.
  • They’re giving you their laser-focused attention.
  • They can be smiling.
  • And my personal favorite, they’re nodding their head in understanding and approval. Interestingly, the head nod is actually an inborn gesture of submission and agreement. Researchers uncovered this knowledge when they conducted analysis on people who were born blind and found that they too did these gestures for identical reasons.

Now an audience member doesn’t need to do all of these to be considered a partner. They’re kind of the “you’ll know them when you see them” kind of enigmas.

Parters are what help a presenter go from feeling like their energy is low and their presentation is lacking, to making them feel like they’re giving the presentation of a lifetime.

Already have experience presenting to groups? Think back to one of your best presentations, did anything in particular stand out to you? Often times, when reflecting on a great presentation speakers will cite specific audience members as helping them along the journey and giving the the needed boost of confidence and energy to help the presentation go from good to great.

What to do if there aren’t partners in the group

Because being a “partner” isn’t actually a real think to look for or notice beforehand, you’ll have to assume that your audience will contain a few. Or at least one.

However, some experts think that you can not only identify them ahead of time, but also create a few before you take the stage. Some people will tell you that if you’re unsure of the people in attendance that you should head into the conference room or area where you’ll be speaking early and get to know a few folks. By understanding them and building a connection with them beforehand, you can rely on that during the presentation to give you the boost of confidence that you may just need to hit a presentation out of the park.

And if you aren’t able to mingle beforehand, but want to be positive to have an audience member you can rely on for this particular reason – you can be like a magician and plant them in the audience.  Explain to a friend, coworker or audience participant (that you already know) that you’re a little nervous and would love to just have them listen in to your presentation and smile once in a while when you two lock eyes.

How to become a partner to help others

The best way to find the best parters, is to be a parter yourself. It’s karma.

And whether we realize it or not, by being a participant in an audience we are communicating. Our body language is communicating tons of different things – like how we are feeling, what we’re thinking and even can show just how present we are in the room. Maybe our eyes are darting around the room looking at others or maybe they’re locked on the presenter. Maybe we’re leaning way back in our seat with our legs outstretched – or maybe we’re sitting straight up with our legs crossed and arms folded. Help a fellow speaker reach new grounds by being a partner.  Or if the unfortunate situation of a presenter not living up to their potential occurs, help them out by smiling and nodding your head in agreement.

Now all this “partner” stuff may seem like small details, but as anyone who has experienced this before can tell you – applying this new-found knowledge can be game-changing for a speaker/presenter of any level.  And planting partners in the audience is no longer an ideal for most experts – it’s a must.

So what about you – have you experienced a partner in an audience before? How has it helped or transformed your energy and overall presentation? Feel free to share your thoughts below. 

 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites (paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, grain-free)

31 Jan

Today was the final day of challenges for our HubSpot Academy team.

Chris, Lindsay and myself did 30-days of paleo.

Rachel did 30-days vegan.

And Dee Dee did 30-days of no carbs.

That’s almost 1/2 of our team having specific dietary restriction for 30-whole days. And if you’ve tried to cook or bake for a group that has such dietary restrictions, you know it can be difficult.

Enter the chocolate chip cookie dough bites. They’re paleo. They’re gluten-free. They’re dairy-free, egg-free and grain-free. And most of all – they’re delicious! Actually, they’re surprisingly delicious. I’ve made many paleo sweets over the past two years and nothing compares to these. They’re so simple, anyone can make them.

chocolate chip cookie dough bites paleo

Chocolate chip cookie dough bites recipes (8-10 count):

You’ll need:

  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1.5 tablespoons almond milk (or coconut milk)
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon raw honey
  • 3/4 cup almond flour (or almond meal)
  • 3 tablespoons dark cacao chips (ideally at least 70%)
  • Optional: 3 tablespoons dark cacao for dipping/drizzling

Instructions:

  1. Whisk together the first four items above: coconut oil, almond milk, vanilla extract and honey.
  2. Then add in all at once the almond flour. Fold it in  and don’t overwork as it can lead to greasiness.
  3. Fold in 3 tablespoons dark chocolate chips
  4. Place in container in refrigerator for 30 minutes – to allow them to chill.
  5. Once chilled – roll them in small balls or bites.
  6. Dip them in melted dark chocolate or drizzle melted chocolate over the top.
  7. Eat.

How easy is that? If you decide to make them, let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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