Backstage Rituals to Calm Your Nerves

What are some ways you can calm your nerves before a talk?

Almost every speaker feels a bit nervous before hitting the stage.  Even those who have been at this for a while may still get butterflies.

Backstage rituals can help us move into the right frame of mind before going out in front of our audiences.

Here are some tips I share in my newest book The Epic Keynote for getting us prepared for a great gig:

  1. Breathe: If you have any nerves at all, remember to breathe. A simple exercise is to take ten long, slow breaths before going out.
  2. Set Your Intention:  A client of ours recently shifted his focus from “being liked” by the audience to “impacting change” for them. His speech was a bit less humorous but the passion was bumped up and the content was deepened. The result? The client hired him back right away. Set your intention to what is most meaningful for your audience, rather than for yourself.

    [Tweet “When you stop focusing on standing ovations, it opens the door for deeper, results-oriented, content @joecalloway”]

  3. Practice Your Mantra: Some people might head to a quiet room to meditate beforehand. I like to head to the ladies room. Just a few minutes alone in the stall helps me focus my intention (I know, there’s a joke here, I’m leaving it alone). I might say something like “This is not about you, it’s about them. You will give them your best and you will do it while having fun.” On another day I might remind myself to be kind, be open and be generous with my ideas. Others might sit quietly while drinking hot water with lemon. (Perhaps they are not in the bathroom, lol?)
  4. Vocal Exercises: Some speakers might do vocal exercises to strengthen their voice.
  5. Prayer: No doubt there are many people who say a prayer before they proceed to the stage. “Lord/Buddha/Universe (insert faith of your choice) help me share my gifts in the most powerful way possible. Help me be confident, humble and authentic.” Regardless of your beliefs, tapping into whatever higher power you have in your life (your faith or perhaps your own self-confidence) can be powerful. Although as speakers we need to approach sharing our beliefs on the platform with caution, we can certainly bring them along with us. You know, for back up! The people who share our belief system will often hear our subtle language and know that they have something in common with us.

Whatever your method, having a backstage ritual will help you solidify your intention, and that is a very powerful way to begin your presentation. Read more tips like this in The Epic Keynote.

We’d love to know what backstage rituals have worked for you… Let us know in the comments below!

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  • Pauline Duncan-Thras

    Backstage I find it helpful to pace back and forth in a quiet place while focusing my attention on upcoming inspiring interaction with my audience.In the washroom I look into the mirror to share positive affirmations with the fortunate speaker I see before me. Being alone is helpful and necessary.

    • speakerlauncher

      Nice, thanks for sharing Pauline!

  • I tried “power posing” once (see Amy Cuddy’s TED talk about body language). It actually worked…AND I felt a bit like Wonder Woman. Can’t beat that kind of powerful feeling before giving a talk!

  • Because we as speakers need to make a good first impression, I focus only on my opening line before going up to speak. I make sure that my tone is right, my volume is right and that I don’t’ get side tracked in the heat of the moment when I am up in front of an expectant audience after being introduced. As long as my opening line comes out as planned, I know that the rest will follow.

    • speakerlauncher

      It’s so true Ray that if you get the first few words out of your mouth right, then everything seems to go okay after that. If you start out scattered (often because you forgot to take your 10 long slow breathes to oxygenate the brain and you can’t think straight) then it’s a struggle. Thanks for sharing.