Get Your Body to Behave

by Jenny Davidow, M.A.

Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved

You’ve done hours of preparation to speak in front of a group or camera. You’re ready, right? You step up to the podium. Uh-oh. Your voice is shaking. You’re short of breath and sweating profusely. What happened?


Is there any way to get your body to behave when you’re making a presentation? A certain amount of nervous energy is normal, even a must – it boosts your adrenaline levels and gives you sparkle. But all your mental preparation might be undone by a sweaty, stressed-out delivery – if you don’t prepare inside as well.

Do you remember the movie “Broadcast News”? Albert Brooks plays a brilliant reporter who longs to be the stylish on-camera news anchor. There’s no doubt he’s got talent. But as soon as the camera and lights come on, he looks worried, sweaty and rumpled. Viewers see the nonverbal communication and are turned off. They stop listening to the words. No matter how much he wants to succeed, he can’t seem to make his body behave.

Is there an answer to this dilemma?


Your conscious mind can’t control your body’s reactions. But you can prepare your body and emotions ahead of time for the pressure you will feel – and get them fully aligned to support you.

Professional athletes do this all the time. Since the 1980’s, sports coaches have advocated a visualization called mental rehearsal. They regard this inside preparation as essential to peak performance, as important as actual practice time. And the results have shown increased skill development, faster competitive times, and greater confidence and ease under pressure.**

Can you guess why?


Because when you imagine a feeling of calm and confidence,

knowing you are ready to give it your best...

When you imagine being relaxed and energized in front of a group of people or a camera,

smiling with genuine enjoyment,

your eyes bright with enthusiasm and the desire to connect with your audience...

When you imagine seeing your audience respond with interest on their faces,

nodding and smiling back…

…your brain and body experience what you imagine as completely real.


That’s right. The same neural pathways are activated in your brain and body when you imagine a successful presentation as happens when you really give a successful presentation.* World-class athletes would agree.

The great news is that inside preparation makes a dramatic difference in all avenues of performance, including public speaking and communication in general. Our society promotes the idea that we can do it all with our conscious, rational mind. But we are not machines. Even highly-skilled professionals can fall apart under pressure.

You can’t separate your body from your mind. Your body and emotions need to be prepared as thoroughly as you prepare your speech or presentation. The less-conscious parts of you – your body language and self-talk – usually fly under the radar of your conscious mind. Self-doubt and self-criticism are classic causes of nervousness, performance anxiety and stage fright.

Experience tells us that our worst doubts and fears often show up under pressure and can be strong enough to sabotage our success. Despite our best efforts, our conscious mind can’t control our inner critic and signs of physical stress.

But by preparing in advance on the inside, you give yourself the antidote to self-doubt and stress.

So the next time you’re going to speak in front of a group of people, don’t make the mistake of preparing only your power points.

To effectively prepare for a presentation, go further than arranging your stories and facts. Remember that what you feel emotionally and physically needs to be aligned with what you have to say.

Use your preparation time to mentally rehearse:

From inside, see, hear and feel yourself doing well at each stage of your presentation.

Imagine feeling energized and comfortable,

with a warm smile and intention to connect,

speaking with confidence and ease.

Imagine your audience smiling and nodding,

showing their involvement and interest.

When you prepare your body and emotions to expect success, you fully align your spoken words and nonverbal communication, mind and body. As a result, even your neural pathways are primed and ready to support peak performance on all levels.

Success will surely follow.


* Daniel Goleman. Social Intelligence. Bantam Books, 2006.
* Norman Doige, M.D. The Brain that Changes Itself. Penguin Books, 2007.
**Porter, Kay., Foster, Judy.  
Visual Athletics: Visualization for Peak Sports Performance Brown & Benchmark, 1990.
**Porter, Kay.
The Mental Athlete. Human Kinetics, 2003.

Raise your communication skills to the highest level of style and success!

Jenny Davidow, M.A., is a Communication Coach in Bellingham, Mt. Vernon and Seattle, WA. Training and support to enhance your verbal and nonverbal skills, effectiveness in public speaking and in print media.

Fully align your words, intention and body language for your next presentation, article or report.

Communication coaching sessions by telephone, Skype and in person.

Visit and Communication Coaching for more information.