Before elite athletes step out into the stadium to compete, they have thoroughly prepared themselves on all fronts — mentally, emotionally, and physically.
They have warmed up, practised some visualisation exercises, listened to some motivating music, eaten a healthy snack, and hydrated themselves.
You also need to ready yourself to fire on all cylinders, when you launch into your pitch for your amazing product or service!
This post will give you the low-down on what you should do to be on top of your game.
1. A time and a place for your routine
Block out the hour before your pitch into your diary — This is your time to focus on you and you alone.
You also need to have a quiet, peaceful place at your disposal to run through your routine, undisturbed.
Practising this routine in your special place is how you get "into the zone" and get off to a strong start.
Read on for some ideas on what to include in your pre-pitch routine.
2. Fuel yourself.
On the day of your pitch, eat a healthy breakfast that will both sustain and nourish you.
And later, in the hour or so leading up to your pitch, enjoy a light, nutritious snack, such as a banana or a few pieces of dark chocolate.
The last thing you want is for your blood sugar to start plummeting and for you to feel faint, start shaking and be unable to think clearly.
As far as drinks are concerned, it’s best to stick to water or herbal teas. Beware of drinking too much coffee, as caffeine may make you shaky and jittery.
3. Expand your posture
Have you ever noticed that when you feel triumphant and on-top-of-the-world, you straighten yourself up and adopt an upright posture?
The interesting thing is that the reverse is true too. In other words, if you intentionally change your posture, you feel more powerful.
When you expand, you feel powerful.
When you shrink, you feel powerless.
This is borne out by the research.
Amy Cuddy is an American social psychologist, who became widely known for her 2012 TED talk, in which she presented a 2010 study on "power posing", which she co-authored.
Her study looked at how our body language can influence our mindset.
Cuddy found that when people adopted a "power pose" — making themselves physically bigger, with the arms held high, or on the hips in the "wonder woman" pose, for a couple of minutes, in the leadup to a job interview, they were more assertive, more confident, and ultimately more successful.
Practise the power pose, in private of course, (say in a quiet room or even a bathroom stall), in the leadup to your pitch. Expanding yourself like this will make you feel more powerful.
And when you feel more powerful, you will be more upbeat, more optimistic, more confident, more influential, and ultimately more successful in your pitch.
4. Move your body
When you are under acute stress, such as when being chased by a tiger, or when delivering an important pitch to investors(!), you go into fight, flight, or freeze mode.
Your body tries to help you survive the looming threat. The sympathetic branch of your nervous system is activated and the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol are released into your bloodstream.
A whole host of things happen to your body. You become super-alert.
Your pupils dilate to see better.
Your heart rate and blood pressure increase.
Your breathing changes to short, sharp, shallow breaths.
Glucose is released into your bloodstream.
And your muscles are primed, ready for you to flee or to fight the threat.
If you want to relieve some of the uncomfortable tension in your muscles, do some cardiovascular exercise for a few minutes to get your muscles moving and your blood pumping!
Here are some exercise suggestions:
- Star Jumps
- Jogging on the spot
- A brisk walk/run around the block
- Get on your exercise equipment — rower/bike/treadmill
Try out any or a combination of these exercises and you will release all that tension that is trapped in your body.
You will feel so much calmer and more relaxed.
And while you’re at it, don’t forget to warm up your mouth, tongue, vocal cords, lips, face, neck, and shoulders.
5. Listen to some music
Music is powerful — it can change your mood in an instant.
The key is to tap into how you are currently feeling and decide how you want to feel.
If you feel flat and want to fire yourself up, listen to some uplifting music, with a fast tempo, that motivates and energises you.
Alternatively, if you are feeling a bit jittery and need calming, you may find it more soothing to listen to some music with a slower beat, say a classical music piece.
Create a couple of playlists and choose whichever playlist fits the bill.
6. Change your breathing
I have an easy solution to countering that crippling anxiety when you are in the limelight, feeling totally exposed and out-of-control.
And it does not involve you consuming alcohol or taking anti-anxiety drugs! It simply requires you to change your style of breathing.
As mentioned previously, when we feel like our survival is threatened, say when we are speaking in public (!), the fight, flight or freeze response is activated.
Along with changes to our heart rate and blood pressure, our breathing changes to short, sharp, shallow breaths.
What we need to do is change our style of breathing to longer, deeper, slower breaths (also termed diaphragmatic breathing or abdominal breathing).
To assist us to inhale deeply, we are specifically engaging the diaphragm muscle, a large, dome- shaped muscle located at the base of the lungs.
Now, here is where the magic happens in neutralising our nerves — Diaphragmatic breathing has been shown to dampen the stress response and to activate the relaxation response.
Dr Andrew Weil — a famous, integrative Doctor in America and the author of multiple best-selling books on vibrant health and wellness is a huge proponent of 4,7,8 breathing to help modulate our stress response.
In summary, the 4,7,8 breathing technique involves the following steps:
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight. This is
- Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Deep breathing techniques such as 4,7,8 breathing are wonderful to practise in the lead-up to a potentially stressful event such as delivering your pitch to a group of potential investors.
7. Visualise your success
Positive visualisation (seeing events play out in your mind’s eye with a great result) is frequently used by elite athletes to achieve top performance and to break records.
Visualisation can help rewire your brain in a positive way when practised consistently.
Visualisation applies beautifully to you delivering your pitch, as it helps you maintain focus under pressure, manage your emotions and boost confidence by eliminating fear and doubt.
Visualise yourself confidently delivering a successful pitch.
Engage every one of your senses to imagine how your pitch plays out in real time.
Imagine what you will wear that day, what colour your suit or dress will be and how its fabric will feel on your skin.
Smell the scent of the perfume or cologne that you will put on.
Imagine your name being called to present your pitch.
Feel yourself take a deep breath and start your presentation with confidence and poise.
See the audience engaging, responding, nodding, smiling, and praising you when you finish, with some great compliments.
Imagine as many details as possible, and most importantly, feel that amazing sense of accomplishment and confidence.
For optimal results, practice your visualisation for a few minutes each day as well as on the day of your pitch.
Your pitch is a performance in which you need to show up as your most energised, engaging, and empowered self.
You need to emulate those elite athletes who prepare thoroughly in the leadup to their sporting events.
And when you do, you will maximise your chance of acing your next high-stakes pitch!
She loves to fast-track her clients’ public speaking success, empowering them with the skills and confidence to shine in all their public speaking endeavours.