Monday, February 4, 2013

The Pravachan Jitters

Our scriptures note the particular significance of mantra-jap in its ability to steady our mind, yet the mantra of syllables we utter when nerves compromise our ability to communicate does anything but strengthen our resolve.

Photo Credit: andres.thor via Compfight cc

Stuttering stands to dilute a sticky message but can be reigned thanks to a few tips shared by an article on Duarte:
  1. Visualize Something Positive. Visualizing something that makes you happy is known to help you relax and thereby reduce stuttering. Imagine something that you love is in the room with you, or even keep a picture of something you love on the podium, or in your pocket. I’ve seen great speakers keep images of their children on their teleprompter because of this technique.
  2. Get Familiar. To this day, I visit a venue a few days before a show. I’ll soak in the details and reduce future distractions that can cause my mind to wander. I don’t know if it’s ADD, but I get those “Ooh shiny object!” moments when performing, and I seem to stutter after those distractions occur. So I try to familiarize myself with my surroundings, and if possible, rehearse in the venue so that it becomes second nature. This familiarity reduces heart rate and irregular breathing which are muscular triggers that can lead to stuttering.
  3. Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse. My professor used to tell us to rehearse our lines in a dark, quiet room, laying on our backs. This forces you to focus only on your voice and what you’re saying. Sometimes when I present, I’ll wear earplugs so that I can hear my voice, and focus on my projection and articulation. Perhaps you can’t memorize your whole presentation, but I would suggest rehearsing your opening and closing with this technique.
  4. Take a Deep Breath, or a Lot of Them. Before you go on stage, focus on the pace of your breathing until you can slow it down and reduce your heart rate. Once I get a controlled rate of breathing, I try to be conscious of it when I’m on stage. If not, the adrenaline kicks in, my heart races, and I talk so fast that no one can understand me.
  5. Pace Yourself. I mean actually pace – move around a bit onstage. A slow, steady walk across the stage can set a rhythm, that will help slow down your thinking and your speech, and reduce the confusion that often leads to stuttering. My instructor once made me recite four pages of a play while walking around the campus with her. I didn’t stutter once! But when I stood still on a stage in front of a large group, I stuttered and mumbled like a madman. The pace of my walking helped control the mechanics of it all.
  6. Get Some Sleep. For a long time, I tried cramming lines and content up the last minute of the performance. Staying up all night rehearsing and memorizing. I was a wreck. My professor told me, “Rehearse and study, but the night before, sleep, a lot!”
Let's face it, nobody likes to panic before a pravachan, but when we introspect, we realize the angst stems from whether or not we will defy the audience's expectations.

Ambition - now that's something worth contemplation.

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