Funny, I've never really written about this here, even though I'm attempting to write a book about it and have developed a workshop on the subject. So I'm going to post a three-part series about preparation rituals over the next week and let's see if we can add some layers to your level of preparation.
When we think of preparation for a presentation, we think of the usual stuff: have an objective, organize your thoughts, practice it, time it, check out the venue, check your equipment, anticipate Q&A, etc.
Some of us might use some visualization or affirmations to get that positive self-talk going, but for the most part, mental and physical preparation fall short. Which is why many of us, even though we've done everything we think we need to do to prepare, still feel unsure of ourselves and not quite ready when we give a presentation.
A preparation ritual is just a routine that helps us prepare for an upcoming task. It could be a performance, a competition or just an activity that needs some focus.
Preparation rituals (aka performance rituals) help us get organized and focused, help us block out negative thoughts and distractions, and help us feel calm, energized, confident, excited and ready to perform.
The most visible example of preparation rituals is in athletics. Just watch a basketball player at the free throw line and you'll see what I mean! But for the rest of us, rituals are usually performed in private, by ourselves.
Today I'm going to introduce two kinds of rituals: the focusing ritual and the distraction ritual.
I like the distraction ritual myself. Before I give a presentation, I like to sing at the top of my lungs in my car, to warm up my voice and to get pumped up. I gather up all my gear and obsess over things like having enough batteries in my bag in case my remote or timer stop working. I don't think about my presentation at all. In fact, I'm done practicing two days before the event. The day before and the day of are all about clearing my conscious mind of the material.
On the other hand, some people like to focus on the presentation by visualizing the venue, seeing the audience, and successfully completing the whole presentation in their heads before the gig. Some people like to keep practicing and reading over their presentation up till the last minute.
There is no right or wrong way to prepare as long as you find what works for you. If you prefer to focus on your event, do it. If you prefer distraction, that's okay, too. And of course, your focus should be on the positives, never the negatives.
In part 2, I'll talk about relaxing vs. energizing rituals.
Do you prefer focus or distraction?