Whether you’re a ballerina, soccer player, cellist, or really any type of performing artist - getting up on stage to deliver something of value to an audience is a unique position to be in.
As someone who’s in this position often, I’ve come to rely on a few pre-show rituals to help center me before a talk, and our twenty-fifth all hands meeting (#AHM25) which took place last week was no exception.
As with every all hands meeting, months of planning lead up to the final moments just before our entire team gets together (whether in person at our headquarters or via livestream), and we talk about where we’ve been, where we’re going and just about everything in between.
These meetings never fail to Move, Inspire and WOW our partners and colleagues, which is why I always make it a point to give time to a few warm up exercises that set me up for great delivery just before taking the stage.
Here they are:
Arrive early. I try to get to the venue a day early. This gives me the evening to review location and the chance to meet the audio visual team.
Do a run through. Taking the time to run through my talk on the plane ride or going through one full rehearsal before I get to bed is a great way to refine delivery.
Sleep early. Depending on where I’m going and how heavy travel is, I aim to get to bed early so that I can wake up to a good half-hour workout before starting my day.
Eat light. I always eat light the night before a talk and I never skip breakfast. Eating something light but energizing like fruit always gives me a great boost.
One coffee. I usually indulge in one cup of coffee and I aim to have this early on in my day. I have a rule where I do my best not to drink anything 45 minutes before my talk.
Talk to the people you love. Family support is everything to me, so I Facetime my wife and daughter which brings me loads of joy and functions as a wonderful reminder of why I do what I do.
Mic check one hour prior to speaking. I like to get mic’ed and checked, if possible, at least one hour before things get going. This gives me time to head somewhere more private and get in my zone.
Watch or listen to something inspiring. For me, this is usually a video of someone I look up to. Here’s one of my favorites featuring Steve Jobs that remind me of the lasting impact we can have on the world.
Turn your phone off. I know, a lot of people probably keep their content on their phones, but I really believe it’s important to disconnect and turn all devices and distractions to their off setting during a talk.
State your intentions. What do I want the audience to receive? What should they be walking away with? I think about my intentions in an effort to really envision how I want my talk to go.
Pray and give thanks. I give grace to God for the opportunity to get up in front of people in an effort to make a difference. I pray that my words land and become action items for this positive difference to have a ripple effect in the world.
Relax and remember to smile and have fun. Breathing exercises help me relax, and I even do a little lip workout (kind of like when you put your lips together as though you’re about to blow into a trumpet – this helps release tension in the mouth muscles.
Get your blood circulating to feel pumped. A couple of jumping jacks or burpees (not so many that you’ll be short-winded) are great for getting blow flow going and getting you to that place where you feel pumped.
“Picture yourself in a living room having a chat with your friends. You would be relaxed and comfortable talking to them, the same applies when public speaking.”
– Richard Branson
Regardless of how we label even the most peculiar pre-performance habits, there’s no doubt that they can help guarantee a great show, and while nothing can prepare us more than practice itself, show-day customs have become something I really look forward to.
Then I get called and the rest is all passion, love, conviction and determination!