You take a few minutes to 'warm-up' when giving a talk? Find your groove from the start.
Updated: Nov 25, 2020
We are all apt to feel nervous as we approach an important talk. Feeling nervous as you lead up to it usually isn't a big issue. If, on the other hand, you experience nervous thoughts and feelings as you begin your talk, it's likely you are not at your best. You say your nerves settle down and you get into a groove after a few minutes? I say it would be better to be in a groove from sentence #1.
NO WARM-UPS ALLOWED.
How do you get into a groove from sentence #1? How do you subdue your nerves and come out strong and focused? I don't think there is any one technique that works equally for everyone. Here are some ideas for you to experiment with.
Adopt a selfless/otherful intention.
Behind your nervousness is a worry about your self: will I look competent (or smart or professional or confident or prepared...)? It's natural to want to look good in the eyes of others, but if you allow that to become your inner drive, you're setting yourself up to be nervous and self-consciousness.
Forget your self and focus on your listeners. Let go of the motivation of enhancing their image of you. Replace it with the goal of enhancing their lives by transferring a valuable idea to them. Before your talk, say to yourself something like:
I'm here to be helpful. I'm here to give.
or I am a mentor. I'm just a mentor.
Accept the onset of pre-talk nerves without judgement.
When you are coming up on a talk and your mind suddenly deems it to be a big deal, adrenaline and cortisol are secreted into your bloodstream. These chemicals cause various muscles to tense. You may blush, sweat, etc. If you 'fight' the reaction, letting it preoccupy your mind, it will likely cause the process to cycle, secreting more of the chemicals. If, on the other hand, you accept the reaction at it's onset, observing it without judgement, you will likely stop the cycle and the chemicals will fade.
The moment you notice the onset of a nervous reaction, make a long controlled exhale and say to yourself something like:
Hmm, I'm having a nervous reaction. That's okay.
or I guess my mind thinks this is a big deal. But that's no big deal.
Focus on the first 2-3 sentences and concentrate.
Many of the World's greatest athletes admit to feeling nervous before competition. But in the moment just before competition starts, they focus like a laser on the task at hand – the very first task.
The equivalent in speaking is concentrating on the first 2-3 sentences that come out of your mouth. I'm not advocating for a focus on saying the perfect words. I'm suggesting you have one or two qualitative ideas in mind, for example:
Start with a strong voice.
Again, it helps to make a long, controlled exhale to sooth your nerves, clear you mind, and create the conditions for concentration right before you begin.