Why and How to Practise Speaking Under Pressure

The why – and how – to practise speaking under pressure: why it matters, and 2 super-practical tips.

Do you ever get frustrated by the fact that you can practise and be fine at home or in front of the dog…but when you get into the actual space, things start to unravel? Or you feel more stressed than you thought you would, and that catches you by surprise?

Here’s a 2-minute video on how to put yourself under deliberate pressure in order to increase your capacity when you’re actually speaking.

By testing yourself in the ways I mention in the video – and there are 2 tips, one physical and one cognitive – you’ll increase your ability to deal with both:

  • Physical challenges like struggling with your breath, racing heart 
and / or
  • Mental challenges like freezing up. I use this sometimes even though I’m not nervous: I just want to challenge myself externally.

Of course there are apps, and other features built into software which you may already be working with.These can be great for the cognitive tip. Make sure you check out the first tip, which is a little quirky and different.


How to test yourself under pressure before an event.mp4 from Sarah Denholm on Vimeo.


Hello, a couple of tips for you today on practicing feeling stressed because you know you’re going to be stressed or nervous when you go into the event where you need to speak.

But you’re at home and you’re feeling quite comfortable.

And therefore, it’s like “well I don’t have a problem now…but I know I’m going to have a problem when I get into the space or when I’m actually online, with all those people looking at me”!

A couple of thoughts: one is physical, and one is cognitive.

The physical aspect – and I did this with a client this morning – is that she’s like “well I feel fine with you, Sarah, I have no problem”.

So I said “Ok, turn off your camera if you want to, or go into the next room, and actually practise doing some star jumps or running in place or something that is going to make you breathless”.

She went off and did that and came back. And the goal was to start to speak immediately, even though you’re still trying to deal with calming your breath down.

She did that and found it very helpful.

What it’s doing is it’s replicating that sense of being out of breath, and that stress and not being able to handle the breath that we can get when we are stressed out.

“I think the cat enjoyed it”! she said, as it was wondering what she was doing. But that was very useful.

So that’s the physical practice that you can do at home, to replicate that sense of stress in your system.

And the cognitive, the second aspect that you can test, and even I find this still that I can put myself under a degree of pressure: I’m not nervous, but I can put myself under more pressure if I actually record myself.

As soon as that red record button is on, I’m on and I tell myself “Sarah, you can’t stop. You have to get to the end, whatever you’re trying to say you have to get your way through this”.

And that can also be a way to put yourself under a degree of pressure and test yourself out before the actual event. So I hope that one or both of these if you haven’t tried them before, give one or both of them a go. They are very practical tools. And they both work. All right. Best wishes. Bye for now.


There you have it: briefly, why and how to practise speaking under pressure. I hope these are useful for you.

Best wishes with your public speaking or presentations!


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