How to Calm Your Nerves By "Game-ifying" Your Public Speaking (Speak Masterfully Tip #3)

Buckle up for week 3 of our on-going blog series:

"Don't Picture Them in Their Underwear: 5 Uncreepy Strategies to Calm Yourself Before Public Speaking"

You ready for tip #3?!

Okay! Here it is:

“Don’t be nervous!”


Wouldn't that be an incredibly unhelpful tip? 

Let's talk for a second about why “don’t be nervous” such an unhelpful piece of direction to give someone.

Because it’s inactive.

In general, humans aren’t great at processing negative direction.

For example: Don’t think of an alligator.


Similarly, a doctor trying to improve a patient’s diet will probably have greater success with the prompt “Eat more vegetables” than “Eat less junk food.”

A lovely side-effect of eating more vegetables is that people naturally eat less junk food, but it’s much easier to get them there with an active prompt.

That’s why  the real Tip #3 is Find a Game.

Let’s give you something ACTIVE to accomplish during this talk.

Time to set an intention.

Get clear on what you want to accomplish with this talk and why.

If possible, distill it into a single sentence. In acting, this is known as your objective and your super-objective.

(See, I just saved you the expense of getting a BFA in theatre.)

So, for example, if I was giving a webinar on the importance of meditation pre-speaking engagement, my intention statement might go something like this:

I want to inspire 10 people to download my performance-anxiety guided meditation because I believe that many of this generation’s greatest thinkers are going unheard—simply because they’re too afraid to step into the spotlight.

Three things to notice about this intention: It’s measurableactionable, and connected to my larger mission.

Let’s break that down:

1. Measurable

This means you have an objective way of measuring whether you’ve achieved your goal.

In the above case, it’s pretty simple:

After the webinar, did 10 people download the guided meditation?

You can assess that very definitively with a simple yes or no.

2. Actionable

Don’t go into a scene playing a feeling—play an action.

This is Acting School 101.

It’s not very interesting to watch a production of Romeo and Juliet where the actor playing Romeo says to himself before stepping onstage, “Let’s go be in love with Juliet!”


We’d much rather see an actor walk on the stage with the intention, “Let’s go woo Juliet” or “Let’s go seduce Juliet” or, even better, “Let’s go charm Juliet into marrying me.” (Notice how that last one was measurable as well?)

Pay very close attention to the verbs you’re using when crafting your intentions.

Not only will creating an actionable intention make you a more effective speaker, 9 times out of 10 it will make you a calmer speaker as well.

Having an active objective focuses the mind on an external task. This can crowd out that internal chatter that has little to do with your goals and everything to do with your anxiety.

3. Connected to your larger mission 

This is the BIG “why” around what you do.

Remember how we started that 5-minute meditation yesterday? We zoomed way in by finding your feet and focusing on your breath.

This is where we get to zoom back out again and focus on your larger mission. In the above example, the mission statement is:

I believe that many of this generation’s greatest thinkers are going unheard—simply because they’re too afraid to step into the spotlight.

This is a great way to gently remove your ego from the equation.

The messenger may be a shaky wreck, but the message is STRONG.

So, before you step on stage, it’s not a bad idea to remember that the messenger is, in fact, the message.

Still with me?

I know that was a longer one. But I promise this tool makes all the difference in the world.

Let that percolate and please join me next week for Tip #4 (which is by far my silliest tip.)

Beyoncé is going to be invoked very early on.

I won’t tell you how, but stay tuned…;)


Sara Glancy

FIRST TIMER TIP: Crafting your intention can take a bit of practice. Don’t try and figure it out in the 5 minutes before your presentation—that’s just a recipe for more unnecessary anxiety. Write it down well in advance of your speaking engagement and keep it on a notecard or Post-it that you can look at before showtime!

Photograph of Sara Glancy on stairs
Headshot by Jessica Osber.

Sara Glancy is an NYC-based actor and public speaking coach and the founder of Speak Masterfully, a service that helps professionals take the stage with less fear and more fun! 

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