Blowing bubbles isn’t just for children. You may think it’s silly. Yet the deep breathing required to blow bubbles will help you relax and de-stress, all-important for nervous speakers.
When I work from home, I sometimes take calming breaks and blow bubbles as I sit by the lake behind my house. The way the sphere forms on the tip of the wand and how it floats above the water for just a few seconds makes for a small moment of bliss for me. That’s why I came up with the acronym BLISS to help you remember five ways to control your nervousness.
I’ve written often about conquering fear of public speaking, and it remains the most frequent question I receive from my clients. Performance anxiety, stage fright are some other terms for fear of public speaking. The clinical term is glossophobia. More than 70% of human beings on the planet suffer from it. Even experienced speakers feel some degree of fear when they’re in the spotlight.
There are many techniques for managing fear when you speak. Notice I say manage because in truth the jitters or butterflies in your stomach will show up most of the time. The trick is how you deal with them.
Would you like to turn presentation hell into presentation bliss? Here are five proven steps to turn your fear into peak performance.
What constitutes BLISS?
B stands for Breathing.
Speaking is simply breath and proper breathing is essential to speaking well. Most of us never learn to breathe properly. We take light short breaths at the top of our lungs, as opposed to deep long breaths which engage the diaphragm. If you sing or practice pranayama yoga, you know what I mean.
When you’re nervous and tense, adrenaline kicks in. Your heart rate accelerates, and our breathing becomes shallower and constricted. You may lose breath mid-sentence or speak faster than normal. Two of my favorite breath-centering techniques are blowing bubbles and straw breathing.
The act of blowing bubbles moves the focus away from your nervousness to your breathing. You take a deep inhale and exhale into the wand to create the bubble. This is the pursed lip breathing technique which increases pressure in the airways and keeps them open and flowing.
Similarly, you can practice the straw breathing technique to calm your nerves and fill your lungs with air to strengthen the volume and quality of your voice. Take a drinking straw in your hand, inhale deeply through your nose, and exhale all the air through it. Do five repetitions in total. You’ll feel energized yet serene.
L is for Love.
If you love your audience, you’ll connect with them on a human level and much of the anxiety will disappear. Ignore the cliché of seeing your audience naked. It’s disrespectful and simply doesn’t work. Besides, talking to a naked audience can be distracting—and you don’t need distractions. Your job is to help your audience do something, solve a problem, and make their lives better. Another way to love your audience is to make eye contact. Select a few people in the front rows and make direct eye contact for just a second. Scan the back of the room and try to do the same, even if people are too far away to see their eyes. On a video call, make steady eye contact with the webcam lens to suggest that you’re looking straight at the virtual audience.
I stands for Imagine.
Imagine your highest achievement. Visualize the success of your presentation. Anticipate the applause that will follow your talk. How will you feel after you ace your keynote? What are the sensations in your body that come with hitting it out of the ballpark? Stand in the imaginary glow of the spotlight of success. Hold on to those images and sensations as you take the stage.Visualization is a powerful technique used by elite athletes to train, compete, and win. You can do the same.
The first S is for Smile.
A smile is universal. It will put your audience at ease and help melt away your own tension. It signals that you’re happy to be there. Plus, when you smile naturally you use facial muscles that trigger the neurons of happiness in your brain, so there’s a real chemical reaction that induces happy thoughts. Smiling is also contagious. Your audience will mirror your gestures and feel happy themselves. It works on Zoom calls as well. Use a smile wisely and make it your superpower.
The second S and last letter is Service.
Think about your speech, talk, or presentation as a gift you’re bringing your listeners. Keep your ego in check and think about your audience’s interests, not your own. Dave Bricker, professional speaker, and friend says: “Turn nervous into service.” Shifting your focus from you to your audience and what they need from you is a powerful way to develop a winning mindset.
BLISS will help calm your mind and body and remind you of what is important: delivering a talk that informs, inspires, and transforms your audience.