(3m reading time)
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Blasting through the finish.

When a runner approaches a race’s finish line, does he slow down and cruise? No, he calls upon a final, secret store energy held in reserve for just this moment, and he pushes hard to finish strong.That’s exactly what you’ve got to do in the hours leading up to your presentation to keep the butterflies at bay and your mind sharp.

It amazes me when I see a speaker succumb to fear and shrug off responsibility at the last minute. I’ve heard fatalistic statements like:

Well, I’ve already prepared all I could, so now I’ll just let things take their course.

To me, that looks like an invitation to faint on the finish line. Does a runner stare at those last few yards and think, “Phew, the end is in sight so I can start chilling out now?” Of course not! So why would you rest on your laurels when you’re in the final stretch before your talk? You’ve already prepared your delivery, memorized it, rehearsed it, and got your gear ready. I know you want your hard work to really shine.

If you stop your prep work in the hours leading up to your talk, you may lose focus. If you lose focus, you may over-think your situation, imagine the worst, and psych yourself out. Instead, see yourself as a runner in the final leg of the race–you’ve got a final push to do so you can finish strong! This attitude (and associated “final push” activities which keep your mind busy and productive) will do wonders to keep your nerves under control.

So today’s the day. Let get into how to make the most of it and walk on-stage as the awesomest version of yourself.

Power Up Before You Leave

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Say “good morning” to your presentation.

Warm up. As soon as you wake up in the morning, run through your talk again by yourself. Specifically:

  1. Stand up.
  2. Hold your cue cards (if you’re planning to use them).
  3. Give your talk to a mirror, a wall, or something inanimate.

This dusts off your brain and ensures that you haven’t gotten rusty on anything overnight. If you have gotten rusty on something, you can catch it now. Review your script again to smooth over any gaps or rough spots.

Take a test lap. Feeling good? Wonderful! Have any friendly people readily accessible in your household? Excellent. If they haven’t already had enough of your and your presentation, give them the talk one final time.

Shine up. Now it’s time to get dressed in that fantastic outfit waiting for you. After you’re dressed, take 30 seconds to just look at yourself in the mirror. Smile at yourself! Feel confident that you’re going to look (and do!) your best today.

Fuel right. This one’s obvious. Eat well. You know your body’s dietary needs better than I do, so feed it what you know will make it feel good today. I try to avoid eating too many foods that can cause gas. Also, make a point to stay hydrated with water. And avoid milk before your talk, as it commonly thickens phlegm.

Get Psyched On Your Way

Many people experience a mental shift once they’re in-transit to an event. The mind starts focusing exclusively on the destination, and the journey fuels anxiety. There is a better way to view this time on the road: as valuable preparation time! Don’t waste it, or worse–let it freak you out.

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Clear your mind. If you made your own voice-over recording, listen to it while in-transit to your presentation location. Breathe deeply and embrace a feeling of focused calm. If you planned your day right, you know you’ll be there on time. Heck, it may even be possible to arrive early at your venue.

An aside on timing: If you find your transit leaves you with extra time on your hands, use it at the venue–checking out the space, meeting people, warming up, etc.. There’s little to gain by burning extra time you may have elsewhere, and it’s certainly not worth the risk of inadvertently making yourself late.

Then pump it up! Before facing your audience (or walking into your client’s office, or simply entering the environment where you’re going to be speaking), find a private place for several minutes. This could be a restroom stall, your car, the train station, the parking lot–anywhere you feel you won’t be disturbed. Put on your headphones and turn up one of your favorite high-energy songs. At a loss? Some suggestions:

Jump around! If you can, sing along! Get stoked! You’re ready!!!

Now go in there and streak across the finish line. And don’t forget to smile–because it’s showtime!

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And that’s how I approach public speaking. Thanks for tuning in to this five-part series.

I would love to hear your thoughts and strategies for giving talks to audiences large and small! What techniques do you use to get yourself ready to give an important presentation?

Drop me a note in the comments!