Article Category: Speaker Habits

Ready, Set, Go! Nail Your Pre-Speech Ritual

Runners train for months to prepare themselves for an important race, yet all they’re doing is simple, repetitive exercises. Does that make the exercises unimportant? Of course not!

Along the same lines, below are some simple yet powerful “exercises” for honing your confidence, credibility, and audience connection immediately before your next high-stakes presentation opportunity.


Stretch your communication muscles.

Runners need to limber up before a race. Arrive early enough at your venue to walk around the presentation room and ensure that it is set up the way you want:

  • Is there a platform? Where is it located?
  • Are you restricted to the platform, or can you walk around?
  • How will you build rapport and intimacy with listeners from your speaking position?
  • Will you be lit while on stage? If so, how will that impact your ability to connect with listeners via eye contact?

Taking the time to get oriented will help you feel more in control and better prepared for the unexpected.


Warm up with a dry run.

Now that you’re familiar with your surroundings it’s time test your equipment. Check the microphone: figure out how to turn it off and on, and speak into it while a friend or colleague listens from various locations in the audience. If you’re using PowerPoint, are your slides in the proper sequence? Do they appear correctly on the venue’s display? Finally, rehearse your presentation aloud. If you don’t have time to go through the whole thing, pick out a handful of key sections — among them your opening and close — and practice until you’ve got them nailed.

Be sure that the host or organizer has a copy of the introduction you provided in advance (if not, give them the extra copy you brought with you). In Speaker’s Edge, author Martin Presse recommends formatting your intro in 18-point type, with each line a bullet point for easier reading. Finally, decide where you’ll be waiting during your introduction so you can walk briskly and enthusiastically to the stage.


Get an early lead.

Arriving early gives you the opportunity to greet attendees as they make their way into the room. Shake hands, introduce yourself, and graciously thank them for attending. Allow yourself time to make your way to your starting point, where you can listen intently to your introduction like a runner awaiting the start’s pistol. Approach the stage with relaxed self-confidence, and you’ll be ready to give a winning presentation.

Successful runners know it’s all about pace. By completing a pre-event ritual like the one described above, you’ll have the basics nailed and be able to concentrate on delivering a confident, well-paced presentation in which the audience is the ultimate winner.

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  1. nick morgan says:

    Great advice; a pre-game warm up is essential for professional speakers. There’s an important piece missing, however: you need to make sure you connect with the emotions of the talk so that you can share them effectively with the audience. If your presentation lacks emotional connection, no one will remember it.

  2. Stephanie, these are great tips! I’m always surprised at how many people just walk into the presentation room 5 minutes or so before they’re scheduled to start. I’ve always found it so important to stand in the empty room and just get the feel of it.


  3. Jessica Pyne says:

    Thanks for a useful post, especially the point about checking the room and equipment. There’s so much that can go wrong when technology is involved, it’s just not worth risking it! Things like conducting sound checks and ensuring you have a spare laptop should be standard practice for presenters, to reduce the chance of dificulties.

  4. Katie Brandt says:

    I think an important tip that was missed (that great athletes also do) is visualizing success – the applause, the people that love your message, the end results. This sets you up for success mentally.

  5. Such a good article. The benefits in terms of confidence of having a good “warm up” routine can never be overstated.

  6. Thank you for all your comments on the article. Of course, there is so much more that could be said. . . I so agree with Nicks’ comment about the need to make the emotional connection, Katie’s suggestion about visualizing success as well as all the other comments.
    I find that even seasoned clients are hesitant to do what will make them feel the most comfortable and prepared before they step up to speak. A pre-game ritual can boost a speakers confidence and allow him / her to focus on the all important “listener”!

  7. Tom Fuszard says:

    Good points. I always arrive at least 15 minutes – and sometimes 30 minutes – early for just the reasons you mention. Plus, the earlier you arrive the more time you have to relax before the audience arrives. Something as simple as a quick run to the restroom can help as well. It always amazes me when I see presenters arrive just before their scheduled start. (Or worse, when they’re late.) What were they thinking? Thanks for sharing.

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