Any public performance is mentally and physically taxing. You’re responsible for yourself and your body. It’s important to tailor your diet and rest times to this. The body and mind must be in balance. Negative expectations, envisaging problems etc. can generate counterproductive pressure during the preparation phase.
Early in the morning
Observe how you feel that day to ensure you can respond immediately:
If tired: Do exercises to get you active
If the body is overexcited: Do relaxation exercises
If you have high standards and expectations or feel under pressure to perform well: Do breathing exercises and mental exercises to settle and equalize the pressure
Remember: Presentations require a high degree of presence, and evaluative thoughts will end up distracting you. Adopt a positive internal attitude.
The final pre-performance check
It’s now about maximizing performance! To ensure you are able to focus on what’s important – the performance –, it’s a good idea to clarify all organizational aspects beforehand. This includes having clear, orderly documents, checking the necessary equipment and any gear you’re taking with you for the day, and, if applicable, drafting up a schedule for the time leading up to the presentation.
Once these things have been dealt with and checked off, the speaker can focus on the presentation, creating the basis for drawing strength and firing up the presentation.
Take five or ten minutes to prepare at home:
Warm up the body; vocal exercises ensure the voice is clear and incisive. Relaxation exercises prevent overexcitement.
It’s a good idea to visualize the start of the presentation. The mental run-through exercise is also helpful here.
This involves watching the presentation play out in your mind. To do this, it is important you are somewhere you won’t be disturbed. Start by imagining yourself in the presentation room, and check again where all the equipment is positioned. Visualize the audience. Play the presentation through in real time, and “fast-forward” the parts you’re very familiar with.
The home stretch – Between the mental run-through and actual Performance
During the final hour before the performance, the speaker is essentially already focused on the performance. This time is spent revisiting key points, and helps consolidate the material in the mind. A condensed version of the mental run-through is a good way of quickly checking everything is right. The speaker can use any free space, e.g. the commute to the venue, the empty presentation room, or their hotel room, to mentally prepare and, if possible, rehearse out loud.
It is helpful to arrive well before the presentation – to give you time to position equipment and handouts at your ease. Unnecessary stress creates anxiety, is distracting, and should be avoided where possible. No matter how good your preparation or organization, however, this is often the phase when stage fright and nerves set in. If mild, this is a positive thing, as it will make you present and alert. But if the anxiety is taking up most of your focus, this can have a negative effect on your performance. Grounding exercises are useful here. Stage fright makes you feel like the ground has given way beneath you. Breathing can help you relax and return to being present.