I’ve never been one to experience “nerves” before big events, assuming I’d had time to prepare for the event. In school, exams were more of an annoyance than anything, because the only way that I’d make a mistake was if the questions were unclear, incorrect or require rote memorization (which I generally still hate but do if necessary). Bigger events, like major business presentations, only become worrisome if they’re on short notice. Even then, familiarity with the situation and audience usually allow a degree of predictability as to outcome. What really can unsettle me is if members of my team (where teams are involved, as they usually are in business presentations) appear unprepared.
Regardless, my preference for pre-event ritual is a walk. It has the effect on me of diffusing thought so that mental blocks don’t happen, and focusing the senses. A walk heightens awareness, provides a breath of fresh air (hopefully – sometimes I settle for walks through office buildings or shopping malls), and gets the blood flowing from the light cardiac activity. Ideally, the walk ends where the presentation or event will happen, at least an hour beforehand. I then case the place, figure out where the audience will be sitting, determine my sight lines and movement areas, set up the equipment to make sure everything is working and then settle down with a cup of coffee or two to watch everyone else file in.
“Thus, in the conduct of war, one must not rely on the failure of the enemy to come, but on the readiness of oneself to engage him. One must not rely on the failure of the enemy to attack, but on the ability of oneself to build an invincible defence.”
– Sun Tzu, The Art of War
“Only thoughts that are won by walking have value”
– Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols