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Newsletter January 2012
Public speaking and relaxation
‘Relaxation’ is probably not the first word that comes into people’s minds when they hear the words ‘public speaking’. Most people think about nervousness.
However, if we actually think about relaxing, and about feelings of relaxation instead, we are on the way to getting ourselves into a better frame of mind for giving an effective presentation.
One Chinese proverb states ‘Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are. ’Are you making yourself nervous because you think you should be someone you are not?
Who you are, is perfectly fine. In all the years I’ve been involved in public speaking, I haven’t met anyone who isn’t fine as they are. Who you are – coupled with adequate preparation – is enough to allow you to feel relaxed.
What are some of the practical activities we can do to bring relaxation into public speaking?
Nervousness is an energy in our body. If we can remove it, we can allow feelings of relaxation to come to the fore.
For example, you can burn off the nervous energy by doing some exercise as near to the speaking situation as you can. Running, swimming, playing tennis or similar can help.
Can you do something before your presentation that makes you laugh? Laughing releases endorphins which reduce stress. Being with people who make you laugh is a good way!
Use a discipline such as meditation or grounding, or have a massage or reflexology session beforehand to gently take away the nervous energy.
Start building a mental link between ‘relaxed’ and ‘public speaking’ by doing some relaxation exercises while practicing your presentation. This will help you get used to being in a relaxed frame of mind at the same time as you think about public speaking.
A quote by William James goes ‘The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.’ If you feel nervous, what thought are you thinking? Whatever it is, there will be another thought you can choose that will help you feel more relaxed.
One way to do this is to choose a suitable phrase, for example “I’m feeling relaxed and at ease” and say it to yourself several times while you are giving your presentation, as a way to train your brain to think thoughts that are beneficial to you. The more you do it the more relaxed you will start to feel.
Before you ‘go on’, find a place where you can do some warm up exercises to further help you relax. Shake one arm and wrist at a time. Then shake one leg at a time. Do some head and neck rolls, followed by some exaggerated mouth movements. If possible, speak to someone so you have already started to use your vocal chords.
Then go on and enjoy.