Pre-Speech Routines

Good pre-speech routines maximize the odds of a successful speaking outcome. Elite athletes, elite musicians, elite actors, and world class performers all develop their own routines / rituals, and religiously follow them. I believe these routines are the doorway to FLOWthe state in which we perform our best and feel our best. I’ve come to think that good pre-speech routines and rituals maximize the odds of successful “RELEASE”. This is new and emerging knowledge.

Image from FLOW Genome Project

My notes have been compiled over many years. They work for me. They will probably not work the same for you. Make your own notes. They will help. Don’t neglect this phase.

My default / “Go-To” process (when anxiety / body-sensations arise) is:

  1. OBSERVE!. Just observe all sensations objectively. Without reacting. Knowing that “This is temporary”. “This will soon pass”. “This is Biology”.
  2. Next bring all my attention to my soles and say “GROUNDED”.
  3. Next bring all my attention to an area 1-inch inside of my belly-button and 1-inch below my belly-button and say “CENTERED”
  4. Finally bring all my attention to the area between and above my eyes and say “FOCUSED”


This process can be completed in 10 – 30 seconds.

Before I share my voluminous notes, I’ll recommend a book which provides good knowledge on this important but overlooked topic.

Get a full 8 hours sleep
Exercise in the morning—include some vigorous / interval type of training.
Do one round of the 7-minute APP: 7 MWC
Express (& experience in my body) gratitude for the opportunity to speak
Some type of full body movement for 1 – 3 minutes every hour.
Deep slow diaphragmatic breaths: 1 – 2 minutes every hour or every two hours. Focus only on breath.
Do short full body scans: direct positive energy to parts that are struggling.
No negative energy or thoughts!
A meditation or attention training routine for 15 – 30 minutes.
Some Roger Love vocal exercises.
Grounding Exercise
A round of Lumosity.
Use the hard roller and relax as many of my body muscles as possible.
Breathing Exercises (Sandra Zimmer book: chapter 5)

From the book Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham and the Science of  Success:
Matthew Syed
. Page 218. Location 2221

I worked with three leading sports psychologists over ten years, and by the end of that period, I had my mental preparation down to a fine art. Precisely 15 minutes before a match was scheduled to begin, and having already warmed up, got the feel of my paddle in the practice hall, and talked tactics with my coach, I would vanish out of the hall and make my way over to my carefully chosen retreat.

Once there, in quiet and solitude, I would close my eyes and begin a carefully rehearsed sequence of deep breathing. Inhale, relax; inhaaale relaaax; inhaaaaaale relaaaaaax. When one is first starting out it can take a few good minutes to quieten one’s mind, but after long practice it took me only 90 seconds or so to get my heart rate down and my mind into a state of deep relaxation.

With my mind nice and quiet, I would begin a process of what psychologists call positive imagery; in my case a series of vivid recollections of the greatest and most inspiring table tennis matches I have ever played. First I would be looking in from the outside, like a spectator seeing the marvelous strokes, applauding the audacious attacks, marveling at the array and diversity of skills.

Then the perspective would switch, and I would be inhabiting my own body, feeling the sensuousness of the ball on the paddle, the uninhibited flow of my movement, and the exhilaration of playing to the best of my ability and beyond. Then I’d switch focus and imagine myself playing my upcoming opponent, executing the tactics discussed with my coach and sensing a deep and growing feeling of optimism.

I can feel my confidence solidifying. I can feel my doubts dissolving. I am feeling better and better.

Then another mental switch to what psychologists called “positive affirmations.” I am no longer seeing myself in action, but stating the following, strangely powerful words “You can win.” Over and over. With growing conviction. Note that I am not saying: “I can win.” I am talking to my inner self, as if trying to talk him out of his default skepticism. The last few affirmations are ever so slightly different: “You WILL win! You WILL win!”

You can energize. You can exhilarate. You can connect. You can find FLOW
You WILL energize. You WILL exhilarate. You WILL connect. You WILL  find FLOW
And with that, I open my eyes, my head actually nodding in agreement, my faced etched with conviction, my lips smiling. I am one with myself and the world.

Repeat this over and over:
What I love about leading and speaking, is that it puts an immense pressure on me to make a CONTRIBUTION.
I am here to give a speech … if I didn’t give this speech, the world would be worse off.

Repeat this over and over:
You are here to give. You are not here to take.

How Simon Sinek Delivered His TED Talk

No matter the size of the audience, I think of them as my closest friends. I have a mantra that I say out loud before I go on stage, “You’re here to give. You’re here to share.”

From the book Psyched Up:How the Science of Mental Preparation Can Help You Succeed. Daniel McGinn. Pages 33 & 34

Centering Devised by Robert Nideffer. Popularized by his protege Don Greene (developed for San Diego SWAT team)
This is how musicians prepare for high intensity / consequence performances. Don Greene insists that with proper practice, we can center ourselves in less than ten seconds.

7-Step Process

  1. Form my clear intention: Clear the jumble of thoughts by focusing on a single aim, such as “I’m going to convince the buyer to sign a contract.” Don’t waffle. Keep he goal positive. (For me, pre speech: “Drop into the zone and receive my audience”)
  2. Pick a focal point: Aim my eyes at an unimportant distant point, toward which I’m later going to fling excess energy, stress and nervousness.
  3. Breathe mindfully: Close my eyes, breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth. Full expand my belly with each breath.
  4. Release muscle tension: Progressively relax my muscles, starting with my head, and moving down my body, checking one area per inhale.
  5. Find my center: Think about a spot two inches below my naval, and two inches below the surface of my belly. That’s my center. Focusing on this spot quiets my mind.
  6. Repeat my process cue: This is a phrase that’s supposed to trigger a specific action that gets me towards my intention. For a golfer it might be “smooth. good tempo”; for a negotiator, it might be “ask questions and be friendly.” (For me, pre speech: “Drop into the zone and receive my audience”)
  7. Direct my energy: Hurl excess energy at the focal point I identified step 2.

This is more than just calming down. This is a systematic way to calm down, one that forces me to go through specific steps that also occupy my mind, thereby distracting me from any nervousness I may be feeling.

The whole idea behind finding my center is to feel rooted, grounded stabilized—and in control of my energy.

From the book “Your Time to Shine” Sandra Zimmer
Grounding exercise—complete 15 minutes, with audio
Just before starting speaking:

  1. Ground.
  2. Connect with & internally describe/acknowledge my inner feelings/climate
  3. Make connection with audience.

While speaking:

  1. Receiving my audience” and reduce focus on the “performance” aspect.
  2. Soft eyes: Master the skill of taking in my audience (& the world in general) with soft eyes.

Location 1467: Before any presentation, make a commitment to love my audience. Silently say to myself “I am here to love you and share myself with you.” This simple declaration of loving others automatically changes my feelings towards them. It changes my chemistry—and my internal climate.

Location 1475: Establish a mindset of service. Before any talk, remind myself that I am here to be of service, to share what I know and to let go of the outcome. Say this phrase over and over again in my mind: “I am here to respect you, love you and to share myself with you.”

From location 1872: Silent Connection.
First element of opening is silent connection. Before you ever open your mouth to say a word, the most important thing to do is to make connection with yourself and with your audience. Use the first few seconds of your presentation to establish a two-way connection with your listeners.

3 Steps

  1. First, as you take your place as the center of attention, breathe and ground. Take 5 to 10 seconds to establish your presence in the space. Plant your feet on the ground, with feet firmly planted one to two feet apart. Drop energy down into your feet to ground yourself in that place. Take a couple of deep breaths that are deeply rooted in your ribcage.
  2. Second, turn your attention inside yourself. Tune in to how you feel to be standing as the center of attention. Identify a word or phrase that describes how you truly feel in this moment. You cannot plan it, because you don’t know how you will be until you are standing at the center of attention. Whatever the feeling is, be honest with yourself and give yourself the permission to experience it. Focus your attention on your true feelings (do not avoid this step) for only a few seconds to connect to your true self. If you want to connect to others, you must first connect to yourself.
  3. Contact your audience. Once you have connected to your insides, look around the room at the individuals in your audience to see who is there. Land your eyes gently upon several people in the audience, using soft eye connection to receive each person you contact. Take in the energy of love and support from individuals in the group. Give yourself enough time to really feel the sense of energy coming to you from each person.”

From the book Lee Glickstein “Be Heard Now”

  • It’s all about Relational Presence.
  • We have to forget about being good, and remember to be ourselves.
  • They do not care what you know until they know that you care.
  • The key to connecting with any audience is not knowing how to give to them—but knowing how to receive support from them.
  • Message is important—but the depth of our commitment to that message, and our relationship with our audience is even more important.
  • Develop capacity to listen while speaking, to both my audience and myself. Key element of success is listening with no agenda.
  • Listen attentively with soft and available eyes.
  • It is our receptivity that draws people to us.
  • Energy going out and energy coming in are both really the same … it is connection.

3 x Basic Steps to Connecting with any Audience (page 97)

  1. Stand with your feet planted into the center of the earth—and listen to your audience before you begin speaking.
  2. Speak clearly, from the heart, in short sentences. Say every sentence into the eyes and heart of a human being in the audience.
  3. Spend 5 – 10 seconds of quality time with each listener before moving on to another.

4 x Questions the Audience has for you. Answer these questions.

  1. Who are you? (page 180)
  2. Why are you here?
  3. What are we going to do?
  4. What’s in it for me?

From the book The Pin Drop Principle: Captivate, Influence & Communicate Better Using the Time-Tested Methods of Professional Performers – David Lewis & G. Riley Mills

5-Minute Physical Warm-Up (page 87)
This is what actors do to warm up before performing/acting
Shortly before I go before my audience, take 5 minutes to loosen and warm up my body.

  1. Neck: Let my head fall forward and stretch the neck muscles. Next, rotate my left ear to my left shoulder and my right ear to my right shoulder.
  2. Eyes: Alternate from squinting (little eyes) to wide-eyed (big eyes)
  3. Face: Alternate between my biggest expression (surprise) to my smallest expression (sour) to engage the muscles of the face.
  4. Tongue: Stretch my tongue to my nose, my chin, and my cheeks.
  5. Lips: Blow air through my lips to make a motorboat sound.
  6. Jaw: Mimic chewing a very large piece of bubblegum to stretch the jaw muscles.
  7. Shoulders: Roll shoulders in a circular motion. Then reverse the direction. Shrug & release.
  8. Arms: Extend my arms and rotate them in a circular motion. Reverse.
  9. Wrists: Rotate my wrists in a circular motion. Reverse.
  10. Fingers: As if my fingers are dripping with water, vigorously shake them dry.
  11. Back: Mimic the motion of hugging a tree to stretch out the back muscles.
  12. Chest: Mimic the motion of crushing an orange between my shoulder blades to stretch out my chest.
  13. Legs: Shake out any tension in my legs. Follow with deep knee bends.
  14. Ankles: Standing on one foot, rotate my lifted ankle in circular motion. Repeat while standing on other foot.

Home Base Position (page 104)
Stay in this position for 3 to 5 minutes while meditating (i.e. meditating while standing up)

  1. Stand with my feet shoulder-width apart and my weight evenly distributed.
  2. Make sure my knees are unlocked.
  3. Center and lock my pelvis to avoid shifting and swaying.
  4. Let my arms, hands and fingers relax by my sides.
  5. Hold my chest open and elevated.
  6. Keep my shoulders relaxed.
  7. Keep my chin parallel to the ground.
  8. Focus my eyes forward.
  9. Imagine that I have a string coming straight out of the top of my head, and someone is gently pulling on it.

Warming up my articulators (page 134)
Recite aloud. Increase speed with each reading. Emphasize every sound.
Notice how articulators & muscles of my mouth and face move.
Articulators = lips, jaws, tongue, soft palate.

  1. The skunk thunk. The stump stunk.
  2. Rubber baby buggy bumpers.
  3. Good blood, bad blood.
  4. The lips, the teeth, the tip of the tongue.
  5. Red leather, yellow leather.
  6. Bobby Babcock’s bagpipes.
  7. Fresh fried fish. Fish fried fresh.
  8. Shave a cedar shingle thin.
  9. The thirty thorny thistles thawed throughout.

Warming up my voice (page 138)
Do this before giving a speech, presentation, or prolonged communication.

  1. Focus on my core breath. Inhale for a count of 5. Exhale for a count of 5.
  2. Repeat, and release the sound of a moan during exhalation. (connects my breath to my voice)
  3. Start at the center range of my voice. Make “ah” sound. Gently cascade from lowest pitch, to highest pitch, back to lowest – engage full register.
  4. Warm up my 4 articulators:
  • Lips = Mumsy made me mash my mutton.
  • Tongue = Twenty tentacles tickling Ted.
  • Jaws = Charlie chews his chocolate shoes.
  • Soft palate = Rickie’s sticky yucky duckies

Voice Warming-Up Exercises—Julian Treasure: TED Talk

Craig Valentine:
Toastmasters International 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking
(from his blog article)
Pre-Game for Public Speaking (Pre-speech Rituals)
Ritual One (60 minutes to go): Warm up your voice. Make sure your voice is ready and resonant and clear. Hold a note for a few seconds, taking a breath, and then switch to a higher note. After each breath, hold a higher and higher note. Make sure to speak from the diaphragm rather than the throat.
Ritual Two (45 minutes to go): While you’re up on stage, this is a good time to go over your opening lines one more time. Once you have your opening down cold, you’ll feel much more confident about the rest of your speech. Remember, you must come out with a bang not with a whimper.
Ritual Three (10-15 minutes to go): As your audience members start filling in the seats, mentally send them good thoughts. Really look at each of them. For example, I usually think, “I hope you get what you need to lift your life to another level.” Or I simply think, “I’m glad you’re here, and I hope you get more than you expected from this program.” The key to sending them good thoughts is that it once again forces you to go where most speakers never go. Many speakers worry about themselves before they take the stage. The most effective speakers think about their audience.
Ritual Four (2-10 minutes to go): You’ll need one final way to ground yourself and get your energy high so that the best of you comes forward to serve your audience. Use a song, (1st minute from theme of Remember The Titans) photograph, good thoughts—good words—good deeds, or something similar

Last thing to say to myself before taking the stage

Please help me forget myself, remember my speech, and touch my audience in a wonderfully positive and impactful way”

Darren LaCroix:
Toastmasters International 2001 World Champion of Public Speaking 
(from his “Connect” DVD)

4 Questions to ask 5 minutes before speaking

  1. What is my intent?
  2. Am I present?
  3. Will I have fun?
  4. How would I give this presentation if it were my last one ever?

12 Secrets
PRE-EVENT (one month to two weeks out)

  1. Create a promotional video Research the organization online
  2. Interview the event planner
  3. Interview audience members
  4. Research the organization online
  5. Create a Video Introduction.
  6. Create a “You—focused” introduction.
  7. Answer these questions: What will the audience think about me?  What does the audience know about me?—get this out of the way.

AT THE EVENT (one hour to five minutes before)

  1. Sit in the 4 corners of the room and see what the audience will see.
  2. Q&A before the speech.
  3. Shake hands and say hello.
  4. Revisit these questions: What does the audience think about me?  What does the audience know about me?
  5. Connect to myself