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From Harvard Business Review, Nancy Duarte discusses rituals to consider before a presentation. I’m always so impressed with what Nancy says when she writes or talks about presentations. From her TED Talk, The Secret Structure of Great Talks, to her books, slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great PresentationsResonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences and her most recent book, Illuminate: Ignite Change Through Speeches, Stories, Ceremonies, and Symbols, she provides exceptional information and guidance.  And she does again here. I expected advice on how to prepare for a presentation, but she provides choices on how to prepare depending on how you want to come across to your audience. Once more, great advice.  She writes:

There are 4 types of pre-talk rituals to consider trying before you go onstage. While selecting yours, think about how you want to come across to your audience.

Empathy Rituals

Empathy rituals help you connect better to the people in your audience. According to neuroscience professor Pascal Molenberghs, “Empathy is important because it helps us understand how others are feeling so we can respond appropriately to the situation.” A ritual that generates empathy can both help you humanize the individuals in the crowd and makes you less afraid of them.

You can build empathy by working the room before your talk to connect with attendees — ask them questions, learn what they’re interested in. Another technique is to zero in on a friendly face that you know in the audience from backstage. Or look at the stage from your audience’s vantage point. Renowned marketing speaker Nick Westergaard told me he always relies on this pre-talk ritual, “I sit in the audience and quietly look at the stage I’ll be on while taking some deep breaths. A great centering exercise that my high-school band teacher taught me.”

Consider trying a pre-talk empathy ritual if you:

  • Are speaking to an audience you don’t relate to
  • Get stage fright and clam up while speaking, losing your personality
  • Have high-stakes content that simply has to resonate

Exertion Rituals

An exertion ritual before a talk is just what it sounds like: you exert yourself before you speak in order to get your heart moving, feel in touch with your body, and boost your energy levels. Exertion can amp you up, and it can also reduce the amount of anxiety you feel, since it naturally reduces the level of the stress hormones in your body. There are lots of ways to execute an exertion ritual, like doing a brief workout, dancing to hip hop music in your hotel room, or jumping up and down backstage. One contributor I interviewed told me he simply likes to walk around briskly and smile at everyone he sees.

Consider trying a pre-talk exertion ritual if you:

  • Are presenting at a high-energy, upbeat event
  • Feel ambivalent about the subject and need to appear excited
  • Tend to lack dynamism in your delivery

Spiritual Rituals

Spiritual rituals are like the moments of silence and stillness I experience backstage. Mine include prayer, meditation, contemplation, and expressing gratitude for the opportunity. Spiritual rituals can help quell jitters and make you feel grounded and positive. What I do is breathe in slowly and deeply and exhale thoroughly each time. I do that three times and on the third inhale I do three short bursts of trying to get even more air in my lungs and then I exhale slowly. It calms me down.

Consider trying a pre-talk spiritual ritual if you:

  • Are a naturally amped up person
  • Tend to get extremely jittery or anxious before speaking in public
  • Have a spiritual practice that grounds you

Mantra-Based Rituals

Mantra-based rituals are ones that help you prepare by using repetition and self-talk for soothing. Try repeating your favorite mantra to yourself before you go onstage. For example, you might say, “I’m there to give, not receive” or “Just be present and be yourself.”

Consider trying a pre-talk mantra-based ritual if you:

  • Feel soothed by repetition
  • Have a phrase or pattern of words that comforts you
  • Use self-talk to make you more comfortable or bold

When it comes to prepping for a talk, one size does not fit all. You can pick the pre-talk ritual that’s right for your speaking style or the scenario you’re presenting in. Or, you may find it helpful to try multiple rituals. The key is to tap into what makes you uniquely your best, right before you walk on stage.

Read the full story at How to Pump Yourself Up Before a Presentation (or Calm Yourself Down)

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