Sports psychologists advise athletes to visualize their actions prior to competing. Athletes practice what they call “mental rehearsal.” The Olympic skier imagines the moment when the buzzer sounds and she pushes off to plunge down the mountain in the giant slalom. The sprinter sees the moment when the gun goes off and he explodes out of the starting blocks. As a speaker, you can visualize the initial gestures you’ve practiced. Visualizing an action that has been ingrained through practice frees you to gesture with even greater skill and confidence.
Athletes warm up and loosen up physically until right before a competition commences. Sitting in a room about to make a speech, you don’t have that same luxury. You may have to sit for a long time before you get to stand up and speak. Even if you warmed up prior to walking into the room, sitting for a long time will cool you down again.
Visualization will help you to be ready when finally you hear the words, “Please welcome our next speaker.” As you sit there, think of the words you will say first. See in your mind’s eye the gestures you’ll use to accompany those words. Hear your pace of speaking in phrases in your mind’s ear. Athletes use this visualization technique to win medals; you can use the same technique to win over an audience.