We come across a lot of very stressed-out people at the side of the stage or in front of a video camera.
We feel it’s our responsibility, not just to create an amazing space for a live event or meeting, but to help the presenters deliver their content as well as possible.
Of course, the same goes for producing a great piece of filmed content too.
So, how do we help our ‘stressed-out’ presenters control those nerves, when this awaits them?
Firstly, it helps to understand what is happening when we get tense and nervous about speaking to an audience or in front of a camera.
The language and/or concepts that we have formed in our heads are ‘telling’ our brains that this is a stressful (or in our brain’s language “dangerous”) situation. The old part of our brain, the amygdala, then kicks in. It’s our fight or flight response.
Neuro-transmitters in our brain trigger chemicals to be released as our body prepares itself to react physically. Our breathing becomes faster and more shallow. Our heart rates rise and our blood pressure goes up. Those chemical signals also flood our bodies also fill with adrenaline. None of this is helpful when we’re trying to stay calm and relaxed. The most destructive thing that our body does, though, is ‘switches off’ to a degree our pre-frontal cortex – that’s the part of our brain that does all the clever, creative thinking. The part that we really could use when we’re standing in front of a camera or an audience.
This is all runs through our autonomic nervous system, without our conscious direction.
Most of us probably can’t slow our own heart rates or lower our blood pressure through thought alone. We can, however, control our breathing! This is a part of our autonomic nervous system and also reacts to our conscious control.
So, when you’re about to perform, let’s help reverse the pattern of fight or flight. Let’s be mindful about our breathing. Here’s how:
Firstly, most of us breath into just the very top parts of our lungs and miss perhaps 2/3 of the area that we could use, so this technique is helpful in life generally as well.
- Stand up and place your wait evenly on both feet. Relax your body, whilst maintaining an upright posture.
- Imagine, when you’re breathing in, that you’re breathing into your stomach. Your stomach moves outwards and your shoulders remain still, relaxed and lowered.
- Breathe deeply into your stomach, through your nose*, for 4 counts. This can be a little quicker than 1 count per second. The longer your counts, the more control you will gain, but do this at your own pace and ability. If you feel light-headed at any point – stop.
- Hold your breath, gently and calmly, for 8 counts.
- Breathe out for 4 counts, through your mouth**.
* Your nose has fine hairs that are designed to trap unwanted particles in the air from getting into your lungs, so it’s good practice to do this anyway.
** Breathing air out of your mouth allows you to breath a larger quantity of air in the same time. You’re breathing out a lot of carbon dioxide, which can become poisonous to us anyway, so again, it’s good practice to breath out deeply as well as in.
Do this 3 times, then allow your breathing to return to normal for 15 seconds or so, then repeat the whole sequence twice more.
This will help to fool the amygdala into believing that the situation is no longer a dangerous one and that it’s job is now done! It releases control slowly to the pre-frontal cortex and you return to the driving seat of your own mind!
The amygdala is often referred to as the lizard or monkey brain. Nobody wants the monkey driving the car. I heard someone say recently, the monkey can come along for the ride, but they are NOT allowed to drive, play with the radio or choose the snacks! I like that analogy…
There are lots of techniques like this that can help you to become a better speaker and communicator on camera and in front of an audience. Find out more, by giving us a call or dropping us an email.