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3 Pre-Speech Tips From A Dancing Sprinter

Posted on August 1, 2012 by Leslie Dickson

How do you calm pre-speech nerves? It’s a question we get from a countless number of VoicePro®’s Speak Present Influence® participants. We offer our advice and tips but it’s always difficult to simulate the actual experience. Then along came Michelle Jenneke’s viral video.

In case you haven’t seen the video, Australian sprinter Michelle Jenneke has recently grabbed media attention for her warm-up routine at the Barcelona IAAF World Track and Field Championships. The most famous version of the video puts her dancing to eighties dance music. We however will give you the video in the context of the race.

While the video is fun to watch, we were shocked to notice how her routine mirrored our advice. Here’s the three warm up tips you can learn from Michelle’s pre-race dance routine.

#1 Loosen Up

While many of her competitors barely move or briefly shake their arms and legs before a race, Michelle bounces up and down, shakes her hips, and even waves her arms and hands around. This is an excellent way to get rid of nervous energy. In a race, you’ll avoid a false start. In a presentation, you’ll get started on the right foot.

The surge of energy that comes before a speech is hard-wired into us, even if we’re experienced speakers. To make sure it doesn’t cripple you, shake out your body and, if the moment strikes you, dance around a bit. Combine that with deep breathing, and you’ll feel the nervousness flow out of your body, leaving you with just the right amount of energy to get the task done.

#2 Get Focused

Since her killer dance moves are so noteworthy, many viewers have neglected to notice how focused Michelle is before the race. With a few minor exceptions, i.e. a quick wave to the crowd, she never takes her eye off the finish line. Even in the midst of easing her nerves Michelle, is consistently focused on her ultimate goal.

Inexperienced speakers often get distracted during their warm-ups with technical details, a perceived need for memorization, or concerns about their appearance. However, the true focus should be: What am I trying to achieve? How can I reach and touch my audience? Remember your goals; then think about your audience instead of yourself. This healthy mind-set will give your presentation focus.

#3 Have Fun

Let’s be honest. Michelle’s video would lack value as entertainment if it weren’t for Michelle’s bright smile. Just from looking at her face, you can tell she’s happy to be in the thick of things, she’s ready, she’s confident, and she’s enjoying the moment. She’s intently focused during the race, but once it’s finished, her smile returns almost immediately as she rushes to hug and congratulate her competitors.

It’s very easy to spot speakers who can’t wait to get offstage. They avoid eye contact, they rush through their material, and they’re obviously physically uncomfortable. It’s also painfully evident that they’re not having any fun.

While you may not bounce around or wave during a sales pitch or presentation to the board, don’t forget to enjoy yourself. Your enthusiasm for your presentation will shine through from the very beginning, and your audience will be won over.

With the Olympics in full swing, we look for inspiration from gold medal performances, world records, and heroes. Turns out inspiration can come from a preliminary heat at a track championship. Remember Michelle’s fun video before your next speech and once again, don’t forget to get loose, get focused and have fun.

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