Today, I’ve got a concept to share that can make a big difference in your performance as a speaker or communicator. I use mental rehearsal every single time I take the stage. So, if it helps me, I’m betting it will help you, too.
It’s 90 minutes before the Friday night kickoff of another incredible Women of Joy weekend. It doesn’t matter what city we’re in or what weekend it is on the calendar. I can tell you precisely what I’m doing. While I’m getting ready for the event, I’m mentally rehearsing the “welcome”—the first time I greet the audience, share the theme and schedule, and set the tone for the weekend. It’s a mix of details and heart, and I always want to get it just right.
So, I run through it to get my points solidified in my mind, my heart in the right space, and the excitement for the role of host I get to play flowing through my veins.
What Is Mental Rehearsal & How Does It Work?
Have you heard of mental rehearsal?
It’s practicing a skill or playing out a scenario in your mind (rehearsing) to change or improve your performance in reality.
And it works. Professional athletes use it all the time. By running through their skills, plays, routines in their own mind, they’re creating muscle memory that enhances their performance on game day.
Athletes use mental rehearsal to improve their performance in their sport. But we can use mental rehearsal to settle our nerves and improve our performance as speakers and communicators.
Speaking anxiety is a factor for most people I know. For some, there’s just enough nervous energy to keep you focused and sharp. For others, fear creates a hard stop at even the thought of speaking in front of other people no matter when or where. But that energy can be channeled differently and used to help us rather than slow or stop us.
Excitement And Anxiety Are Two Sides Of The Same Emotion
Both imagine the future. Anxiety sees a negative outcome, and excitement imagines a positive outcome. Mental rehearsal can help us minimize the anxiety and boost the excitement.
If the idea of speaking in front of other people makes you fearful, your brain is activating its fight or flight response because its job is to keep you safe. It’s risky to speak up. You could say something dumb. Or make a fool of yourself. You could trip and fall. Or maybe you just say something others disagree with and be rejected in some way. Why open yourself up to risks like that?
When we try to be objective about it, we can see that it’s likely none of those things will happen. And if they do, it’s not the catastrophe our feelings make it seem like it would be.
But that doesn’t stop our brains from kicking into the emotional response designed to avoid risk and keep us safe.
(Looking for more ways to manage your public speaking nerves? This next post is for you: 3 Tips To Conquer Your Public Speaking Fear Right Now – How To Shift Your Thinking And Set Yourself Free)
How Mental Rehearsal Lowers Speaking Anxiety
Close your eyes and imagine the scenario that’s firing up your fears. Put yourself mentally in that place. You’re going to speak up in a meeting or step in front of a room full of strangers to share your message. Let the negative possibilities you’re afraid of come to mind and feel your body start to respond.
(Speaking of sharing your story, here are three reasons it needs to be told!)
Now, intentionally take control. Slow your breathing by taking a few deep, measured breaths to influence your physical state. Shift your emotions by reminding yourself that you’re OK. You belong in this place and what you have to share is worth sharing. Only you can share it.
Finally, settle your mind by circling back to what you have to share—your message details or points.
You have the power to change your physical, emotional, and mental state, literally creating new pathways in your brain and reprogramming your response to speaking in front of other people.
How Mental Rehearsal Boosts Speaking Excitement
We’ve all heard the saying, “Practice makes perfect.” Think of the difference perfect practice can make. That’s precisely what you get to create with mental rehearsal.
Imagine yourself stepping in front of a group of people who love and respect you and can’t wait to hear what you have to say. Right away, you draw them in with your clever, engaging intro. Next, you clearly and effectively work your way through your message points with the audience hanging on your every word. Finally, you close with a compelling call to action your audience can’t wait to take. Your message hits the mark at every turn, and you leave the room knowing you’ve impacted the lives in the room exactly the way you’d dreamed of doing.
The beauty of what you’ve just done is that your brain responds in the same way it would if it had really happened.
As you mentally rehearse your perfect practice, your brain responds with positive results.
You become more confident in your ability to speak in front of others and eager to experience positive outcomes inside and out. You literally begin to feel excitement for the opportunity and the great things you expect to happen as a result.
Whether you’d like to master your fear of public speaking so you can speak up at work without feeling like you’re going to pass out or throw up, or you want to improve your speaking performance and create even more influence and impact when you share your message, mental rehearsal can be a game-changer. It’s helped me, and I know it can help you, too.
Give it a try and let me know what you think.
Are you looking for more public speaking resources?
We should talk. Whether it’s one of my public speaking courses or personalized coaching, your next step is here. Reach out today!
Did you enjoy learning about the power of mental rehearsal in this post? Here are three more posts to read next: