Stay CalmHave you ever had to sit and wait through a program of other speakers or a long dinner before you get to make your presentation?

Does that long waiting period add to any nerves or jitters that you may already be feeling before speaking to a group?

If so, you are definitely not alone!

Waiting to do your thing while other people do theirs can really amp up one’s anxiety level.

This was exactly the situation faced by one of my clients.

She already struggled with nerves and a shaky voice even when she didn’t have to wait to speak, so she was really worried about whether or not she could even give her presentation under those circumstances.

Since she was going to have to sit through another person’s talk (of an unknown  length —  UGH!) before giving her own business presentation, she asked me for some specific advice (some especially powerful tools from my fear management toolbox) to help her to stay calm in this situation, .

The power of breathing to help you to get and stay calm is one of my go-to tools; but this particular client needed something beyond the usual advice about taking slow, deep breaths to relax herself.

Having to wait to speak when you are already nervous about speaking in the first place requires a more potent strategy than simply doing deep breathing. It requires distracting the mind from its fear fixation.


This technique requires that you pay a great deal more attention to your breathing. It changes your focus from your worries to focusing on your breath. Here is the protocol.

  1. Breathe in through your nose for four seconds. This needs to be a belly breath, where you can feel your rib cage expanding as fill your lungs with air, not a shallow breath going only as far as your upper chest. (The easiest way to count the seconds is to silently count 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000.)
  2. Hold that breath for four seconds.
  3. Exhale through your mouth for four seconds, pushing out as much air as you can.
  4. Hold the exhaled position for four seconds.
  5. Repeat at least 4-10 times, or for as long as necessary to keep your focus on your breathing and counting instead of on your nerves.

Since I always like to keep track of what tips and strategies are most helpful to people, I emailed my client to ask her if the 4 by 4 Breathing Technique was helpful. Here is her reply:

The breathing technique really helped to calm me down during the session and I’ve also been using it ever since.

If you are open to it, I invite you to try this technique yourself whenever you feel nervous about something. It certainly doesn’t have to be an up-coming speech!

Life provides plenty of challenges along the way to help us grow into the fullness of our possibilities.