How to manage your nerves by using a mantra

If you want your informative presentations to be memorable and engaging, it is critical that you manage your nerves and get to the right level of nervous energy. I have a number of tools I share with my clients to get them to the right level of nervous excitement. In this article, I dig into one of those tools: the mantra.

In this context, a mantra is a short phrase that you can repeat to yourself over and over until you get to the right level of nervous energy.

There are three reasons why you want to manage your nerves and get to the right level of nervous excitement:

  1.  Excessive nerves may cause procrastination: People who are terrified of public speaking may procrastinate on preparing their presentation. Preparation and practice are key to having a memorable and engaging presentation. Preparation and practice will also increase your confidence and help you get to the right level of nervous excitement.
  2. Excessive nerves may cause you to forget what you intend to say: People who are terrified of public speaking are likely afraid of getting up on stage and forgetting everything they were planning to say. That fear leads to more nerves, which leads to more fear. I have techniques I share with my clients so they become confident that they will remember their key points.
  3. Excessive nerves may cause your audience to worry about you rather than learn your important information: People who are listening to a terrified presenter are likely to be focusing on how scared the person is rather than on whatever information the presenter is sharing. They may be asking themselves “Will the presenter rush off and leave us” “Is the presenter going to be OK” “Is there anything I can do to help the presenter feel better”. If that is happening in the brains of your audience, there won’t be room in their limited working memories for the important information you are there to share.

It’s great to know that managing nerves is important but how do you do that?

I’ve had clients tell me that they want to get rid of nerves before they speak. In fact, getting rid of nerves altogether is not a good idea. If you have no nerves before speaking, you will likely sound rather robotic and that is dreadful. The trick is to get rid of just the excessive nerves leaving you with the right level of nervous excitement.

My pre-speech routine goes like something like this.

First, I will have prepared and practiced my presentation. During the practice, I will have done my presentation using different words, different volume levels, different accents. The idea of practising all these different ways is to have my speech inside me when I go to present. Immediately before my presentation, I breathe deeply at least 3 times, I ground myself by getting into a sumo stance and imagining roots growing down from my feet. Immediately before turning on my camera or stepping out on stage, I say “It’s showtime!” and punch my fist into the air.

The actual calming techniques that I use varies from time to time. Whatever else I do, the last thing I do before the presentation starts is to say my mantra with the associated arm movement. If I’m feeling more nervous than usual, I will say it more than once. By doing this, I find I am always at the right level of nervous excitement when I begin my presentations.

So how do you use a mantra to manage your nerves?

  1. Find a mantra that works for you. You can use my mantra “It’s show time” or my friend Eloise’s mantra “fly in formation” or you can come up with your own mantra.
  2. Ideally find a mantra that makes you giggle. Laughter is a great tool for getting rid of excessive nerves. My mantra causes me to giggle because it sounds like I am going up on a Broadway stage in front of thousands of people and with critics from the New York Times there to excoriate me. That causes me to giggle cause that is never what I’m doing.
  3. Ideally find something you can do in your body to go with your mantra. Your mantra will be more effective if you can incorporate some movement. For my mantra, “It’s show time”, I punch my fist into the air. For my friend’s mantra “Fly in formation”, she could hold her hands parallel in front of her to show something in formation.
  4. Repeat as necessary – You will want to say your mantra multiple times until you feel your nerves are under control and you have the right level of nervous energy. How often you need to repeat your mantra will depend on how overwhelming your nerves feel.

When your next presentation is coming up, remember to get your nerves under control by repeating a mantra to yourself before you start your presentation.

Want to know about other tools you could use to manage nerves?
Helping clients get to the right level of nervous energy and not be paralyzed by nerves, is something I help my clients with.
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