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How to not be nervous for a presentation — 13 tips that work (really!)
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Why do I get nervous before presenting?
How not to be nervous when presenting, 5 techniques to control your nerves, quotes for inspiration, speak with confidence.
If you feel nervous or scared about talking to someone new, giving a speech, or being on stage, rest assured: you’re not alone.
Experiencing symptoms of performance anxiety like an increased heart rate, trembling hands, or excessive sweating is perfectly normal. In fact, people often fear public speaking . But the more you’re immersed in these types of situations, the more comfortable you’ll become .
We’ll explore how to not be nervous for a presentation and offer inspirational quotes to help you step out of your comfort zone.
Based on data from the National Social Anxiety Center, fear of public speaking is the most common phobia . The official term for this fear is glossophobia, colloquially termed stage fright.
Stage fright typically arises from the perception that when you're in front of a group of people, they'll judge you. The brain’s frontal lobe aids in memory, and when we’re stressed, increased stress hormones temporarily shut that region down . This is what causes us to freeze up and stop talking.
There’s nothing wrong with being nervous. We all have different social comfort zones, communication styles, and presentation skills. But we can expand and improve our skills if we’re cognitively flexible .
Cognitive flexibility plays a big role in our behavior and attitudes and impacts our performance. You can use your fears as a catalyst for growth and learning — including giving a great presentation.
The following techniques will help you shift your thinking from reactive to proactive to combat nerves throughout the presentation experience:
Before the presentation:
1. Know your topic
Don’t wing it when it comes to presenting any topic. The better you understand your subject matter, the more confident you’ll feel. You can answer questions right away and won’t have to rely on your notes.
If there are a few points or any information you think might arise during the presentation or Q&A, research it and become comfortable speaking to the subject.
Here are a few ways to study:
- Break down concepts onto notecards
- Practice answering questions (especially the hard ones you hope no one asks)
- Explain complex information to peers and colleagues
2. Be organized
Take time to thoroughly plan each aspect of the presentation. Often, that means designing PowerPoint slides or other visual aids like videos. Clarify with the organizer what format and technology you’ll be using.
If it’ll be virtual, get your background and room organized, too. This ensures the presentation will go smoothly, in turn reducing stress. Consider the following preparations:
- Invite your support network to the event
- Arrive early to set up tech and get comfortable in the space
- Practice timing your presentation with the time tracker you’ll use day-of
- Bring a water bottle and a snack
- Contact your manager or venue staff to discuss any accessibility or tech concerns
3. Practice, practice, practice
Whether you’re rehearsing in front of a mirror, family member, or pet, you can never practice enough. Ask for feedback about your body language , eye contact , and how loudly you project your voice.
If you’ll be giving the presentation on a video conference, record it on the platform to see how you look and sound.
4. Visualize your success
Thinking through possible outcomes is a great way to prepare — but it can also backfire on you. If you obsess over negative what-ifs, this failing mentality might become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The more often you fill your mind with positive thoughts and visualize your success, the more automatic they’ll be. Positive self-talk can make a big difference to your confidence. Run through the presentation — successfully — in your head.
During the presentation:
5. Focus on your material, not the audience
Your audience is there for your presentation — not to assess you. They’ll be looking at your colorful slides and listening to what you’re saying. Don’t let your mind fill with insecurities .
6 . Don't fear silence
If your mind suddenly goes blank, that’s okay. It may seem like an eternity to you as you try to figure out what to say next, but it’s only a few seconds at most.
Pausing isn’t a bad thing, anyway. You can use dramatic breaks advantageously to draw attention before the most important bits.
7 . Speak slowly
Presentation anxiety often causes nervous energy, so we speak faster than normal. This might make you fumble your words or forget important details.
Slow down. Audience members will be thankful since they can understand you , and drawing out your speech will give you time to calm down, ground yourself , and stay organized.
8 . Take deep breaths and drink water
Breathing delivers oxygen to your brain, allowing you to think more clearly. Drinking water ups your energy, and also gives you a moment to pause.
Smiling is a simple yet effective way to soothe your nerves. Doing so releases endorphins, helping you physically feel more confident. And a friendly face will make the audience more open to what you’re saying.
10 . Remember the three "audience truths"
These include: 1) for the duration of the presentation, the audience believes you’re the expert, 2) they’re on your side, and 3) they don’t know when you make a mistake.
After the presentation:
11. Recognize your success
Giving a presentation is something worth being proud of — celebrate it! In addition to family, friends, and coworkers, you deserve a high five from yourself, too.
1 2. Collect feedback
Feedback is a wonderful gift if you use it as a tool to help you do even better next time. Ask some of your audience members what they liked and what they didn’t. Remember, you can learn a lot from your mistakes .
1 3. Don't beat yourself up
You did the best you could, and that’s all anyone — including you — can ask for.
Nervousness is perfectly normal, but sometimes our symptoms hold us back from doing — and enjoying — scarier tasks. Here are five tips for overcoming nerves:
1. Practice impression management
Impression management requires projecting an image that contradicts how you actually feel. It’s essentially a “fake it ‘til you make it” strategy. Let’s say you’re about to make a corporate-wide presentation and feel worried you’ll forget important information. You’ll counteract this worry by imagining yourself remembering every detail and delivering it entertainingly.
Learn from this practice by noting the information chosen in your hypothetical and how you expressed it effectively.
2. Talk to someone
Emotions are contagious. We absorb others’ positive vibes . Chatting with people who are excited about and confident in our presentation abilities rubs off on us.
Before a presentation, call a cheerleader in your life — someone who’s on your side and understands your nerves. Be specific, discussing which parts of presenting are nerve-wracking and what you need from them.
3. Do breathing exercises
Mindful breathing is when you pay attention to the sensation of inhaling and exhaling while controlling and deepening breath length. Breathwork has several health benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety and improving memory, attention, and focus.
Before the presentation, find a quiet and solitary space. Breathe deeply for at least a minute, focusing on sensation and depth. This practice brings you into your body and out of your mind (away from nerve-wracking thoughts).
4. Practice reframing
Reframing is a technique used in cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) to improve negative automatic thought patterns over time. One such pattern is viewing certain emotions as bad, and others as good. Nervousness feels the same in the body as excitement. Instead of panicking even more when realizing you’re nervous, reframe your impression of nerves as excitement for what you’re about to do.
This excitement will propel you forward with confidence and pride for stepping out of your comfort zone and doing something scary.
Here are seven inspirational quotes to help you feel confident and excited when doing something you’re nervous about:
“You can speak well if your tongue can deliver the message of your heart.” John Ford
“ When speaking in public, your message — no matter how important — will not be effective or memorable if you don't have a clear structure. ” Patricia Fripp
“The most precious things in speech are the pauses.” Sir Ralph Richardson
“The way you overcome shyness is to become so wrapped up in something that you forget to be afraid.” Lady Bird Johnson
“It’s what you practice in private that you will be rewarded for in public.” Tony Robbins
“The worst speech you’ll ever give will be far better than the one you never give.” Fred Miller
Like any other skill, learning how to not be nervous for a presentation takes time and practice. Acknowledging this hurdle is the first step to making a change in the right direction. Facing your fears will empower you to take on scarier — and more fulfilling — goals and enjoy the experience along the way. You don’t have to start with a TED Talk. Tackle small challenges like presenting an idea to your manager or practicing a short speech with a friend. We won’t sugarcoat it — it’s hard to change our minds and habits. But if you’re willing to put in the effort, you’ll be rewarded with increased confidence and new experiences.
Content Marketing Manager, ACC
30 presentation feedback examples
Reading the room gives you an edge — no matter who you're talking to, how to make a presentation interactive and exciting, how to give a good presentation that captivates any audience, the self presentation theory and how to present your best self, josh bersin on the importance of talent management in the modern workplace, 8 clever hooks for presentations (with tips), the 11 tips that will improve your public speaking skills, an exclusive conversation with fred kofman, similar articles, how to disagree at work without being obnoxious, 8 tip to improve your public speaking skills, how to ground yourself: 14 techniques you need to try, overcome your public speaking anxiety with these 10 tips, stay connected with betterup, get our newsletter, event invites, plus product insights and research..
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8 Ways to Deliver a Great Presentation (Even If You’re Super Anxious About It)
- Joel Schwartzberg
Know your point, always.
Feeling anxious about a presentation? It’s likely about a fear of public humiliation rather than of public speaking.
- Shift the spotlight from yourself to what you have to say.
- Reject the voice in your head trying to destroy your confidence.
- Knowing what matters – and what doesn’t – will help you succeed.
Where your work meets your life. See more from Ascend here .
I recently worked closely with a 24-year-old client — let’s call him Martin — who was tapped to deliver a five-minute presentation at his company’s annual town hall meeting. Martin had never given a public speech in his professional life, but his accomplishments impressed his supervisors, and they wanted Martin to share his success with the rest of the organization.
- JS Joel Schwartzberg oversees executive communications for a major national nonprofit, is a professional presentation coach, and is the author of “ Get to the Point! Sharpen Your Message and Make Your Words Matter ” and “ The Language of Leadership: How to Engage and Inspire Your Team .” You can find him on LinkedIn and on Twitter @TheJoelTruth.
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Article • 10 min read
Managing Presentation Nerves
How to calm your stage fright.
By the Mind Tools Content Team
Your stomach is queasy, your palms are sweaty, and your mind has gone blank about your opening lines. What will you be like when you've been introduced and the room goes quiet?
Are you doomed to presentation panic or paralysis, or can you overcome that debilitating nervousness and deliver a speech that wows the audience? (Or at least leaves them feeling satisfied?)
If you're like most people, then public speaking or presenting is one of your major fears (it's known as "glossophobia"). Yet these skills are often called upon. It might not be to an audience of hundreds, but giving presentations to staff or even team members is a common enough occurrence. You owe it to yourself to develop some strategies and techniques to manage your nerves so that you can concentrate on delivering an effective and engaging presentation.
A positive mindset is vital to delivering a good presentation.
How Nervous Do You Feel Before a Speech?
Notice that we didn't say to get rid of your nervousness. This is because presenting is not a natural activity, and even the most practiced presenters get a bit nervous. The point is this: your nervous energy can be used to your advantage.
When you're in a heightened state from the adrenaline that's being pumped into your body, you can use that energy to communicate enthusiastically, convincingly and passionately. The key is to decrease your level of nervousness so that you can use your energy on these positive activities, not on trying to control your nerves.
So, to harness your nervousness and bring it under control, there are six key tips to remember. These tips are all designed to help you focus on your audience and their needs rather than on yourself and how you are feeling. They all stem from one truism:
The more uncertain you are, the more nervous you will be.
The more you can control the uncertainty, the less nervousness you'll experience, and the more residual energy you'll have to devote to the presentation itself.
Six Steps to Conquering Your Presentation Nerves
1. know your audience.
Consult your audience before your presentation. The more confident you are that you're presenting them with useful and interesting material, the less nervous you'll be overall. You really don't want your presentation to be a surprise. If it is, you lose complete control over the audience's reaction, and that's a large factor in nervousness. So:
- Define your target audience.
- Ask people who are representative of the audience what they expect from the presentation.
- Run your agenda by a few people to see if they think something is missing or is overkill.
- Consider contacting participants by email beforehand and asking them a few questions about what they expect.
- Greet audience members at the door and do a quick survey of why they're there and what they expect.
2. Know Your Material
Nothing is worse for nerves than trying to give a presentation on a topic that you're not well prepared for. This doesn't mean you have to be an expert beforehand, but you'd better know it backward on presentation day. And making sure that you've understood your audience and their needs properly will help you to ensure that your material is on target to meet their needs.
Another important point to remember is that you can't possibly cover everything you know in your presentation. That would likely be long and boring. So select the most pertinent points, and supplement them with other material if time allows.
To make your material interesting and memorable, include occasional questions to encourage audience participation. This enhances the learning experience and gives you a break from presenting. It also allows you to deliver your information in a more conversational manner which is often more believable.
3. Structure Your Presentation
A common technique for trying to calm nervousness is memorizing what you intend to say. But all this does is make your delivery sound like it's coming from a robot. If you miss a word or draw a blank, your whole presentation is thrown off, and then your nervousness compounds itself with every remaining second. It's far better to structure your presentation so that you give yourself clues to what's coming next.
Here are some tips for doing that:
- Have a set of key phrases listed on a cue card.
- Refer to these phrases to trigger your mind as to what's coming up next.
- If you're using slides, use these key phrases in your transitions.
This approach helps you to control your own uncertainty about whether you'll remember your presentation – both what you want to say and the order in which you want to say it.
A simple, widely used and highly effective structure is to tell the audience what you're going to say, then say it, and then recap what you've said. Our article on How to Structure a Presentation covers this in detail.
4. Practice, Practice, Practice
Although you should avoid memorizing your presentation, you do want to be very comfortable with your delivery. Familiarity brings confidence, and practice helps you to deliver the words naturally. This means that they will be coming more from your heart and mind, rather than from a piece of paper.
Here's what to do when you're rehearsing:
- Learn the organization and order of your presentation.
- If you do feel the need to memorize, limit it to your opening. This will help you get off to a smooth start.
- Try filming yourself. You'll discover what you look and sound like to others, and then you can make a plan to change the things that need changing.
- Prepare for large speaking events by practicing with a smaller audience first; for example, by inviting colleagues to listen to a "dry run" during their lunch hour.
5. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Once you know what you're going to say, you need to prepare yourself for the actual delivery.
- Decide what you're going to wear – make it comfortable and appropriate.
- Arrive early and get your equipment set up.
- Anticipate problems and have backups and contingencies in place in case something doesn't work, you forget something, etc.
- If possible, give everything one last run-through in the real environment.
- Prepare responses to anticipated questions. Try to think like that one person in the front row who always tries to trip the presenter up.
6. Calm Yourself From the Inside
Nervousness causes physiological reactions which are mostly attributed to the increase in adrenaline in your system. You can counteract these effects with a few simple techniques:
- Practice deep breathing. Adrenaline causes you to breathe shallowly. By breathing deeply your brain will get the oxygen it needs, and the slower pace will trick your body into believing that you're calmer. It also helps with voice quivers, which can occur when your breathing is irregular.
- Drink water. Adrenaline can cause a dry mouth, which in turn leads to getting tongue-tied. Have a glass of water handy. Take sips occasionally, especially when you want to emphasize a point.
- Smile. This is a natural relaxant that sends positive chemicals through your body.
- Use visualization techniques . Imagine that you're delivering your presentation to an audience that's interested, enthused, smiling, and reacting positively. Cement this positive image in your mind, and recall it right before you're ready to go on.
- Press and massage your forehead to energize the front of the brain and speech center.
- Just before you start talking, pause, make eye contact, and smile. This last moment of peace is very relaxing and gives you time to adjust to being the center of attention.
- Speak more slowly than you would in a conversation , and leave longer pauses between sentences. This slower pace will calm you down, and it will also make you easier to hear, especially at the back of a large room.
- Move around during your presentation. This will expend some of your nervous energy.
- Stop thinking about yourself . Remember that the audience is there to get some information – and it's your job to put it across to them.
To take this to the next level, listen to our " Performing Under Pressure " Expert Interview with Dr Don Greene. This gives you many more tips and techniques for managing performance stress.
When it comes to presenting, nerves are inevitable. Letting them get the better of you is not. You need to develop a strategy for taking the focus off your nervousness and putting that energy to positive use.
By controlling as much of the uncertainty as you can, you'll increase your confidence in your ability to deliver an excellent presentation. This confidence then counteracts your nerves, and you create a positive cycle for yourself.
For your next presentation, be knowledgeable, be well-practiced and prepared, and try out some physical relaxation techniques. Amaze yourself and impress your audience with your calm and cool delivery of a great presentation.
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How to Effectively Calm Your Nerves Before & During a Presentation
Posted by Belinda Huckle | On November 12, 2021 | In Presentation Training, Tips & Advice
In this Article...quick links
2. a tendency towards perfectionism, 3. believing the audience is going to be there only to criticise, walk into the room like you own it, smile (a genuine smile), connect with your audience, keep your voice tone natural and conversational, use gestures, embrace movement, be authentic, a few more tips on how to calm nerves before a presentation, and finally – self-help – why not explore yourself how to calm nerves before a presentation, follow us on social media for more great presentation tips:.
Here are some simple and practical tips, not only on how to calm nerves before a presentation but also during a presentation , shared by our Managing Director, Belinda Huckle.
Surveys have shown time and again that the fear of public speaking (scientifically known as glossophobia ) is the number one phobia among adults. So, if you suffer from pre-presentation nerves, fear, anxiety or stage fright, you are not alone!
There’s more good news too – nerves can actually be a very useful emotion to harness when presenting, as the adrenalin associated with them can actually help us stay sharp and focused. However, left unchecked, nerves don’t help anyone and can leave us feeling anxious, overwhelmed, inadequate and exhausted.
We have put together some practical, straightforward approaches to help you to begin to understand presentation anxiety and how to manage it.
The key to controlling nerves and anxiety around presenting involves:
- How to calm nerves before a presentation so they don’t undermine your confidence, and;
- How to calm nerves during a presentation (by harnessing your nervous energy!) to elevate your presentation impact.
So, let’s look at these in some more detail:
How to calm nerves before a presentation
If you do feel nervous in the lead-up to a presentation, please, don’t panic. The fact that you are nervous shows that you care both about yourself and your audience. Indeed, if you didn’t have any nerves it could be a sign of complacency or even arrogance.
So, when you feel those tell-tale signs of anxiety such as butterflies in your stomach, take a step back and try to understand why you are nervous.
Here are three common causes of pre-presentation nerves:
We’d love to tell you that there’s a silver bullet solution to this issue. But there isn’t – it’s up to you to plan, prepare and execute your presentation professionally , just as you would with other aspects and responsibilities of your role. However, we can point you in the right direction! You need to do three main things:
- Firstly , think about your audience – get inside their heads and analyse what they want, and/or what the audience needs to hear from you . The more you can tailor your content so that it’s meaningful and relevant for your listeners, the more interesting and persuasive your presentation will be.
- Secondly , structure your presentation so it builds a clear, logical and compelling narrative that gets your message across in a concise and memorable way. (SecondNature has a fantastic Presentation MapperTM methodology that helps presenters do just that).
- A super-fast technique if you really do not have any time to properly practise, is to memorise the opening – just the first 10 seconds or so – it will take a lot of pressure off you if this is ingrained into your brain in advance and you start strong!
- And, if you’ve got a little more time, you should then memorise the key 3-5 takeaways/messages from your presentation, and your closing sentence. Remember, the occasion for dress rehearsals is not when you have your audience in front of you!
If after having prepared and rehearsed you still feel anxious about delivering your presentation, it could be because you are a perfectionist, and so are setting impossibly high standards for yourself and putting yourself under excessive self-generated pressure.
If you suspect you are a perfectionist, acknowledging it is an important first step. You can then use one of the following four tools to attempt to address your perfectionist thinking (at least just for your upcoming presentation!):
- Realistic thinking – Nobody’s perfect! Be honest with yourself. Tell yourself that no one is perfect and tell yourself that making a mistake does not mean you’re a failure or stupid or unprofessional. Just commit to yourself that you will do your best.
- Perspective taking – Try to view situations as other people might see them, by asking yourself how might someone else view the thought of giving your presentation. Is there another perspective? Are there other ways to look at it. Or, turn it around, and ask what might you tell a friend who is having the same nervous thoughts.
- Look at the big picture – Don’t get bogged down in the detail and don’t sweat the small stuff. Ask yourself questions like: “How much does this really matter in the scheme of things?”, “What’s the worst that can happen?”, or “Will this matter tomorrow?”.
- Compromising – Don’t see things as black and white, i.e. that they are either perfect or a disaster. Accept that a presentation that is good can actually be ok. This will help to lower your high standards (this is not suggesting you ditch any standards, just set more realistic ones). Your perfectionism is a little like a phobia of making mistakes. So you could try changing your behaviour using a technique to combat phobias, called Exposure , to gradually introduce yourself to being just slightly less than perfect in important situations…and surviving. Also, if you procrastinate, you can try to overcome it (procrastination is sometimes associated with perfectionism), by setting realistic schedules and priorities.
Think about it – is that really the case? We very much doubt it. In fact, we would like to think that just about every audience wants the speaker to do well – they are there to listen to a presentation about something that affects them or that they are interested in.
So, accept the audience’s support (explicit or tacit), and let it boost your confidence. You might even involve the audience in your presentation – something we always recommend, whenever possible.
So, perhaps when you’re wondering how to calm your nerves before a presentation, or you’re just trying to understand and manage your anxiety and nerves better, remember the words Benjamin Franklin originally said, “If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail!”.
Photo: Flickr – Freddie Peña
How to calm nerves during a presentation (by harnessing your nervous energy!)
During your presentation, there are some proven strategies that will help you to harness the excess adrenalin you might have racing around. This excess adrenalin is caused by our Fight or Flight response which in turn can cause sweaty palms, increased heart rate, blushing, the shakes, tightness of breath, wobbly voice, needing to go to the bathroom and so on.
We’ve all heard the expression “You don’t get a second chance to create a positive first impression .” Well, research backs this up. In fact, a recent study by Science of People found that people watching TED talk videos made decisions about how smart, charismatic and credible the speakers were within just 7 seconds.
So, here are 7 secrets for the first 7 seconds of your presentation that show you how to calm nerves during a presentation and will help you to harness your nervous energy and create a powerful first impression.
So, remember, the more you look like you’re enjoying delivering the presentation, the more the audience will enjoy listening to you.
Imagine success (visualisation)
Many people significantly benefit from imagining themselves successfully delivering their presentations. This is a tool used by world-class athletes, musicians and actors. It’s called visualisation. Here’s how to do it:
First, relax; close your eyes and breathe deeply. When you are aware you’re feeling relaxed, imagine yourself, as clearly as you can, successfully delivering your presentation from the beginning to the very end. Imagine walking into the room – tall, confident, calm. Imagine the start of the presentation, focus on the audience and their smiles (and you smiling back); hear your voice, strong and in control. Imagine the smooth transition between slides; the impact of your key messages.
Imagine being able to answer questions with confidence; imagine enjoying talking with the audience and imagine them enjoying listening to you. Imagine your natural personality coming out. Imagine the end; the conviction as you deliver your closing message (or as we call it at SecondNature, your final destination) to your audience; the feeling of pride and satisfaction in your performance. And, remind yourself again and again that the audience wants you to succeed.
For the full effect, this technique should be done a number of times (3-5 is common) in the days leading up to your presentation.
Take a pause
If you feel nerves coming on during your presentation… pause … A real pause, of a few seconds – it may feel like a long time to you, but we promise, it won’t feel like that for the audience. This will help you to regain control and we absolutely guarantee the audience won’t think it’s a negative. In fact, many of the most charismatic and brilliant speakers pause often, for quite a few seconds, during their speeches, in order to add impact, authority and drama. And it is easy to do if you move at the same time.
As part of pausing, an extra option is to also check-in with your audience, e.g. pause…and then ask them if they have any questions about what you’ve shared so far. This is a terrific way to buy yourself time to take a deep breath, gather your thoughts, and to collect yourself.
And, of course, you can always take a sip of water, as a means of pausing. It’s another way to give yourself a few moments to compose yourself again. There’s no rule to say you can’t present and drink at the same time!
Practise, practise, practise
Finally, dealing with anxietylearning to calm your nerves and present with confidence is like anything – it takes practise, so seize as many presenting opportunities as you possibly can. The more you present, the easier it will get. With time and practise you will find that you will be able to manage your nerves more easily before a presentation and any negative nervous energy during a business meeting or presentation will reduce.
To learn more about managing your nerves and keeping them in check, why not do some further research and take a deep dive into some physiology, psychology and general physical and mental health. It is interesting to note that negative thoughts often subside once they’re heard and countered with balancing, logical thoughts, so it is possible to use our intellect to override our instincts!
So why not check out things like:
- Your inner dialogue (fears, doubts, uncertainty)
- Your limbic system (which regulates your emotions like stress and anxiety)
- Cognitive reappraisal, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or Acceptance and Dedication Therapy .
- Your vagus nerve (and exercises to stimulate it to help you relax and de-stress).
- Imposter syndrome.
Then go on to learn some techniques to calm both your breathing and your heart rate. Structured breathing and other breathing techniques like diaphragmatic breathing can be used to help dissipate nerves and therefore help you stay calm.
And, in the end, don’t forget, experiencing nerves before and during a presentation isn’t a bad thing. They show that you care. So prepare and practise, and then be ready to enjoy the opportunity to connect, share, inform, influence, or inspire your audience!
Improve your presentation skills further!
Keen to learn how to successfully present with confidence? Then look at tailored training to lift your in-person and online presenting skills.
For nearly 20 years we have been the Business Presentation Skills Experts , training & coaching thousands of people in an A-Z of global blue-chip organisations – check out what they say about our programs .
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Written By Belinda Huckle
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Fear of public speaking: how can i overcome it, how can i overcome my fear of public speaking.
Fear of public speaking is a common form of anxiety. It can range from slight nervousness to paralyzing fear and panic. Many people with this fear avoid public speaking situations altogether, or they suffer through them with shaking hands and a quavering voice. But with preparation and persistence, you can overcome your fear.
These steps may help:
- Know your topic. The better you understand what you're talking about — and the more you care about the topic — the less likely you'll make a mistake or get off track. And if you do get lost, you'll be able to recover quickly. Take some time to consider what questions the audience may ask and have your responses ready.
- Get organized. Ahead of time, carefully plan out the information you want to present, including any props, audio or visual aids. The more organized you are, the less nervous you'll be. Use an outline on a small card to stay on track. If possible, visit the place where you'll be speaking and review available equipment before your presentation.
- Practice, and then practice some more. Practice your complete presentation several times. Do it for some people you're comfortable with and ask for feedback. It may also be helpful to practice with a few people with whom you're less familiar. Consider making a video of your presentation so you can watch it and see opportunities for improvement.
- Challenge specific worries. When you're afraid of something, you may overestimate the likelihood of bad things happening. List your specific worries. Then directly challenge them by identifying probable and alternative outcomes and any objective evidence that supports each worry or the likelihood that your feared outcomes will happen.
- Visualize your success. Imagine that your presentation will go well. Positive thoughts can help decrease some of your negativity about your social performance and relieve some anxiety.
- Do some deep breathing. This can be very calming. Take two or more deep, slow breaths before you get up to the podium and during your speech.
- Focus on your material, not on your audience. People mainly pay attention to new information — not how it's presented. They may not notice your nervousness. If audience members do notice that you're nervous, they may root for you and want your presentation to be a success.
- Don't fear a moment of silence. If you lose track of what you're saying or start to feel nervous and your mind goes blank, it may seem like you've been silent for an eternity. In reality, it's probably only a few seconds. Even if it's longer, it's likely your audience won't mind a pause to consider what you've been saying. Just take a few slow, deep breaths.
- Recognize your success. After your speech or presentation, give yourself a pat on the back. It may not have been perfect, but chances are you're far more critical of yourself than your audience is. See if any of your specific worries actually occurred. Everyone makes mistakes. Look at any mistakes you made as an opportunity to improve your skills.
- Get support. Join a group that offers support for people who have difficulty with public speaking. One effective resource is Toastmasters, a nonprofit organization with local chapters that focuses on training people in speaking and leadership skills.
If you can't overcome your fear with practice alone, consider seeking professional help. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a skills-based approach that can be a successful treatment for reducing fear of public speaking.
As another option, your doctor may prescribe a calming medication that you take before public speaking. If your doctor prescribes a medication, try it before your speaking engagement to see how it affects you.
Nervousness or anxiety in certain situations is normal, and public speaking is no exception. Known as performance anxiety, other examples include stage fright, test anxiety and writer's block. But people with severe performance anxiety that includes significant anxiety in other social situations may have social anxiety disorder (also called social phobia). Social anxiety disorder may require cognitive behavioral therapy, medications or a combination of the two.
Craig N. Sawchuk, Ph.D., L.P.
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- Social anxiety disorder (social phobia). In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association, 2013. http://dsm.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed April 18, 2017.
- 90 tips from Toastmasters. Toastmasters International. https://www.toastmasters.org/About/90th-Anniversary/90-Tips. Accessed April 18, 2017.
- Stein MB, et al. Approach to treating social anxiety disorder in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 18, 2017.
- How to keep fear of public speaking at bay. American Psychological Association. http://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/02/tips-sidebar.aspx. Accessed April 18, 2017.
- Jackson B, et al. Re-thinking anxiety: Using inoculation messages to reduce and reinterpret public speaking fears. PLOS One. 2017;12:e0169972.
- Sawchuk CN (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 24, 2017.
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22 Tips for Calming your Nerves Before a Speech or Presentation
by Janice Tomich
- Fear of Public Speaking
You’ve been invited to pitch an idea to your boss or deliver a presentation to an industry association.
Your first reaction is to jump at the opportunity but as the day gets closer your pre-presentation nerves are getting the better of you.
As your anxiety ramps up you can hear the sound of your heart thumping in your ears and your clothes are sticking to your skin. Nights before the big day you toss and turn in bed.
Thankfully there are lots of ways to manage your presentation jitters.
You noticed the word managed…right?
Nervousness isn’t something you can entirely get rid of, however when you increase your skills by learning anxiety management techniques you can begin to quiet the feelings that fuel unhelpful (and usually untrue) stories that take up far too much time in your head.
These are some of the tried-and-true tips I give to my public speaking coaching clients, many of whom struggle with nervousness when they have a presentation looming.
Table of Contents
1. Understand Fight or Flight
Most everyone who has a presentation to deliver will feel some degree of nervousness. Thanks to our Neanderthal ancestors, the body’s response to your amygdala getting hijacked and going into fight or flight is a deeply embedded, primal reaction.
Public speaking, however, is not the same as being attacked by a sabre toothed tiger.
What’s the best way to manage this innate response?
Realize that the fight or flight response is part of your DNA, hardwired into what it means to be human. This the awareness will help tamp down your public speaking nerves.
2. Know that Nerves and Anxiety Are a Habit
Behaviours follows triggers, and for many people the fear of public speaking fuels overthinking and worrying. This results in them feeling more anxious. According to Dr Judd Brewer , this creates an anxiety loop in which we convince ourselves that we are being constructive and solving a problem.
When you feel your heart racing or your monkey brain telling you doomsday stories, notice where it feel tight or uncomfortable in your body? From this place of awareness you can begin to manage your anxiety.
Becoming aware of the anxiety loop gives you insight, which helps it to stop progressing.
Sucheta Misra Associate VP Inclusion & Diversity and Social Impact Leader
3. Breathe the Right Way
Breathing sounds easy!
Actually it’s not.
When you get anxious you’ll find yourself taking rapid breaths, restricted to the upper half of your chest. This kind of breathing fuels a nervous reaction.
Instead, consciously take a few deep breaths to regulate your heightened emotions. This will drop your heart rate, too, and make you feel more relaxed.
If you have a Fitbit or a device that monitors your heart rate you’ll be amazed to see how quickly your heart rate will drop by simply taking in a series of deep breaths.
4. Transform Your Nervous Energy Into Excitement
Anxiety and excitement are similar emotions. Both are high states of arousal accompanied by things such as a rapid heart rate, dry mouth, sweaty palms and sometimes a feeling of being outside of your body.
We view anxiety as negative thoughts, as uncomfortable. Excitement, on the other hand has a postive energy. It’s a feeling we’d much rather feel.
The good news is you can trick your brain into feeling excited instead of anxious, using awareness and reframing techniques.
Positive thinking and using affirming self talk can flip the switch from anxiety to excitement. When you feel anxiety bubbling up, say out loud, “I feel excited.”
Using this tip, to change a negative mindset to a positive one, and you’ve set yourself up nicely for your next presentation.
If you’re lost and unsure about how to make your presentation compelling, I can help.
5. Smile, Even if You’re Feeling Anxious
Smiling helps lower your stress level by releasing endorphins, which lowers your heart rate and blood pressure.
Yes, as easy as smiling!
6. Use Relaxation Exercises
Meditation is the simple act of being aware of what’s in front of us … no yoga mat or meditation cushion required. Meditation can subdue the nervous tension that comes with delivering presentations.
Recently, a client shared with me his rather surprising meditative process. It’s slightly unusual (and had me laughing).
Before every presentation, he goes to a fast food restaurant and orders a cheeseburger. Then, he consciously watches as he orders his food, receives his order, and then eats it. Apparently this meditative ritual works for him every time.
A more common approach (than the cheeseburger routine) is to simply be observant of your environment while you’re walking, or consciously feel the sensation of water falling on your body when you take your morning shower.
Meditation techniques lower your anxiety because you won’t cycle through all worrying “what if’s”. Instead, simply be present.
7. Burn Off Energy by Doing Some Cardio
Moving your body and getting your heart pumping also releases endorphins which can help quell any pre-presentation anxiety .
I’ve been known to do a few fast-walking laps around a conference centre to reduce the stress I feel before I deliver a speech or presentation.
Going for a quick run or cycle before your event are terrific anxiety-busters too!
8. Use Visualization Techniques
Did you know you can strengthen muscles without even moving them ?
Elite athletes, such as golfers, practice watching (in their mind’s eye) their ball land on the green or in the cup. The visualization exercise builds muscle memory to help hit the ball successfully, so it lands where the golfer intended.
Public speakers can use visualization techniques to manage anxiety, too.
As your presentation day nears, take your mind on a walking tour. Imagine every detail – in your mind’s eye walk onto the stage, deliver your speech, listen to the applause, and then leave the stage. Do the visualization with a positive outlook to set yourself for an anxiety-free delivery.
9. Be Prepared
Preparing in the content of your presentation in the ‘theatre of your mind’ is a trap. Practicing this way lulls you into thinking that all is well as you run through your presentation self correcting.
Only practicing your actual words will prepare you for the live event. You’ll establish exactly what you want to say, and how to say it, which will boost your confidence and soothe any nervousness.
10. Practice, Practice, and Then Practice Some More
I have never had a client tell me they wished they’d practiced less.
My advice for how to practice delivering a speech or presentation is to practice until you are tired of hearing yourself, which typically clocks in at 30 hours of practice for a one-hour presentation .
Pro Tip: Once you have practiced your entire presentation a few times, you only practice the parts which are tripping you up. There’s no value in practicing from start to finish when you’re only challenged by specific sections.
11. Drink Water to Stay Hydrated During Your Presentation
Having a dry mouth can cause you to trip over your words, which will rev up even more nervous tension. Beginning a few days before you’re scheduled to deliver your speech, increase your water intake so your words will flow easily.
Pro Tip: Pop one of these lozenges in your mouth a few minutes before you go on stage. They work wonders to coat your mouth and throat.
12. Prepare an Excellent Opening to Your Presentation
I don’t recommend memorizing your entire presentation or speech. But I do recommend memorizing the open and close.
Anxiety often ramps up in the first 30 seconds of your presentation. By committing to memory the beginning (and the close) you’ll prevent yourself from having a rocky start or lacklustre finish.
13. Employ the Power of the Pause
You likely talk too fast when you’re nervous. With the rapid fire of your words comes an increase in your stress level.
Pauses are a brilliant technique slow down your speech, and avoid talking too quickly.
Look through your presentation and find the most important points you want your audience to take back to the office. Place a pause in the front and back end of these sections.
Not only do pauses help your audience understand the important points, it gives you some breathing room and slows down your rate of speaking.
14. Before You Present, Test the Technology
There’s nothing like technology not working to rattle your nerves — even for seasoned presenters.
Whether you’re online or in person, make sure you’re comfortable with the technology you’ll be using.
If you’re delivering online ask a friend or colleague to do a technology run-through.
If you’re delivering live on stage most event planners invite their presenters for a pre-presentation tech check.
Take advantage of the time to test the technology so you can deliver without having to worry about which button to click or where to stand.
15. Arrive Early, Before You’re Scheduled to Present
Whether online or in person, arrive 20 to 30 minutes before you’re scheduled to present.
Give yourself lots of time to settle in and feel comfortable in your surroundings. Arriving early will give you the opportunity to check out where everything is situated, which will stop any last minute scrambling that could leave you unsettled.
16. Walk Around. Own Your Space.
When you walk into a space cold — not having been on-site before — it’s challenging to know how much space you can take advantage of.
Take the time to walk around the presentation space (This applies to both live events and online ones.)
There is comfort in knowing how much “real estate” you have to move through. Feel your feet on the floor.
17. Attend Your Colleagues’ Presentations
Likewise, take the time to get comfortable in the event itself. Stop in and listen to your colleagues’ presentations, and encourage them to attend yours.
Building a sense of camaraderie helps you feel supported by your peers, which helps release the nervous energy soothe your pre-presentation jitters.
18. Meet Your Audience Before Your Presentation
When I deliver a presentation I arrive well in advance of when I’m scheduled to deliver so I can meet the people who will be attending my talk.
It’s a good investment. Meeting your audience beforehand “warms” the room (makes you and them feel more comfortable). This allows you to better connect with your audience.
19. Connect Through Good Eye Contact
During your presentation, connect with the audience using effective eye contact. Make this an easy win by following tip #19 and reading my article with five tips for making eye contact .
20. Use Powerful Body Language
Try slumping over. How do you feel? Low on energy?
Now stand tall with your shoulders back and your head held high. How do you feel now? I suspect you feel high energy/confident.
Your posture affects how you feel. The small shift from slumped to taking up lots of space makes a big difference to your level of confidence .
21. Avoid Alcohol & Caffeine in the Lead-Up to the Event
We all know the effects of excessive alcohol and caffeine. One will leave you too relaxed, and the other too jittery.
Save the drinks until after your presentation, and limit yourself to one cup of coffee or tea before you present to deliver your speech as the best version of yourself.
22. Sleep Well the Night Before
A day or two before you are scheduled to deliver your speech plan to have your slides completed and confident you know your content inside out.
Don’t spend the night before adjusting slides and practicing. Trying to create a perfect presentation at the last minute will only ramp up your anxiety.
Schedule lots of time to prepare in the weeks leading up to the event, so can feel refreshed to meet your audience.
If you’re struggling with presentation nerves choose a few of the techniques which resonated with you. Give them a try. It’s though practice and increasing your public speaking skills that you’ll get a handle on your nerves.
Watching my clients build their communication & public speaking confidence is my sweet spot. Reach out to discover how we might work together so you can manage any presentation anxiety you might be experiencing.
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Manage Presentation Anxiety to Become Confident Public Speaker
I’m a public speaking coach, and I know that for a lot of people (including those you think look cool and composed on stage) the thought of public speaking creates a surge in anxiety levels.
Strategies for Becoming a Confident Public Speaker
Lack of public speaking confidence, whether with peers or strangers, is considered a social anxiety disorder. There’s more people that don’t want to be front and centre sharing their expertise and vision than those that
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It is entirely natural to feel nervous before making a presentation.
Many seasoned teachers, lecturers and other presenters feel nervous beforehand despite having given hundreds of presentations. The same is true of actors and actresses, celebrities, politicians, preachers and other people working in the media or in the public eye.
Being nervous is not a problem or a weakness, you just need to channel your nervous energy wisely. On the other hand, being over-confident and not nervous could be a weakness!
The symptoms of nerves (or stage fright) can include "butterflies" or a queasy feeling in your stomach, sweaty palms, a dry throat and the panic that your mind has gone blank about your opening lines.
Fortunately, there are some tried and tested strategies and techniques to manage your nerves so that you can concentrate on delivering an effective and engaging presentation.
These techniques will not get rid of your nerves; instead they will help you to use your nervous energy to your advantage. When you are in a heightened state from the adrenaline that is being pumped around your body, you can use that energy to communicate enthusiastically, convincingly, and passionately. The key is to decrease your level of nervousness so you can focus your energy on these positive activities, not on trying to control your nerves.
Managing Presentation Nerves
Leading up to the presentation.
It is essential to always be well prepared and well-rehearsed in order to feel confident.
Do not fixate on the presentation delivery at the expense of good preparation.
Spend time preparing, good preparation, knowing your subject well, and knowing what you are going to say and how you are going to say it, will boost your confidence and help reduce your nerves.
Think of a presentation like an iceberg: what your audience sees - the delivery - is a small percentage of the whole. What goes on out of sight, the planning and preparation, should make up the bulk of the work.
Read our Presentation Skills pages for tips and advice on how to best prepare for your presentation, starting with: What is a Presentation?
Practice your presentation; rehearse to family, friends or just in front of a mirror. Listen to any feedback. Check your timings, speak slowly and think about the types of questions that your audience may have.
If possible visit the presentation venue before the event to see the room layout and check what facilities are available. This will help ensure that everything runs smoothly on the day and help you visualise giving your presentation, which can help reduce feelings of nervousness.
Keep Your Mind and Body Healthy
Nervousness can be heightened if you're not feeling 100%.
Avoid alcohol the night before and on the day of your presentation. Reduce or avoid your caffeine intake from coffee, tea and other sources.
Try to engage in some exercise the day before your presentation. This will not only release endorphins, which make you feel better, but exercise will also make it more likely that you'll sleep well and feel more refreshed on the day of your presentation.
See our pages The Importance of Exercise and The Importance of Sleep for more information.
Eat healthy. If you're feeling nervous then you may not feel like eating. However eating something healthy, fruit and vegetables are always good choices, will make you feel better and give you the energy you need to get through presentation day.
Immediately before the presentation
When you feel nervous immediately before a presentation, the following strategies and exercises should help you:
Practice Deep Breathing
Adrenalin causes your breathing to shallow. By deliberately breathing deeply, your brain will get the oxygen it needs and the slower pace will trick your body into believing you are calmer. This also helps with voice quivers, which can occur when your breathing is shallow and irregular.
Adrenalin can cause a dry mouth, which in turn leads to getting tongue-tied. Have a glass or bottle of water handy and take sips before you start your presentation and occasionally during your presentation, especially when you wish to pause or emphasize a point. Take care not to take large gulps of water.
Chewing gum before a presentation may help you to feel more relaxed. Research has shown that the act of chewing can increase your alertness and help to reduce anxiety. It is usually best to get rid of the gum when you start your presentation.
Use Visualization Techniques
Imagine that you are delivering your presentation to an audience that is interested, enthused, smiling, and reacting positively. Cement this positive image in your mind and recall it just before you are ready to start.
Press and massage your forehead to energize the front of the brain and speech centre.
Although you may not feel relaxed before you give your presentation relaxation, exercises can help. Try the following relaxation exercises, but do not continue with them if they cause any pain or discomfort although remember that you may use some muscles you have not exercised for a while and so feel a little stiff afterwards.
Quick Relaxation Exercises
- Stand in an easy position with your feet one pace apart, knees 'unlocked' and not rigidly pushed back, spine straight, shoulders not tense, and head balanced. Try to keep your face muscles relaxed by not clenching your jaw or clamping your teeth together.
- Now stretch SLOWLY upwards, aim to touch the ceiling but keep your feet flat on the floor. Then flop forward from the waist bending your knees slightly as you go. You are now hanging forward like a rag doll - your arms and head totally unsupported and relaxed.
- Straighten up SLOWLY, almost vertebra by vertebra, as if you were puppet and a giant puppet master was pulling you up by the strings keeping your head until last, when you are standing in your original easy position.
Repeat this exercise three times.
Alternatively you can relax in a chair:
- Sit comfortably with your lower spine pressed into the back of the chair.
- Raise your arms above your head and stretch as high as possible.
- Release your arms to your sides and bend forwards with your legs stretched out and stretch your arms out far as possible.
- Return to your starting position.
See our section: Relaxation Techniques for more information and ideas of how you can learn to relax effectively.
During the presentation
Many people find that once they are actually giving their presentation or speech they feel a lot better and more relaxed. But it's important to remember to:
Just before you start talking, pause, make eye contact, and smile. This last moment of peace is very relaxing and gives you time to adjust to being the centre of attention.
Smiling is a natural relaxant that sends positive chemical messages through your body. Smiling and maintaining eye contact also help you build rapport with your audience.
Speak more slowly than you would in a conversation, and leave longer pauses between sentences. This slower pace will calm you down, and it will also make you easier to hear, especially at the back of a large room.
Move around a little during your presentation as this will expend some of your nervous energy. However, try not to pace backwards and forwards, or rock on your heels, as these activities can be distracting or irritating to your audience.
Stop Thinking About Yourself
Remember that the audience is there to get some information and that it is your job to put that information across to them. Try to put your nerves aside and think about communicating your message as effectively as possible.
After the event
It's important to focus on the positives of your presentation once you've finished. Experience is the single most effective way of overcoming presentation nerves and delivering better presentations in the future.
When possible, ask members of your audience for constructive feedback on your presentation. Listen to what they say and focus on areas that need improvement. Try to see any negative points not as a measure of failure but as learning opportunities for future presentations. Our page on Giving and Receiving Feedback may help here.
Use reflective practice
Reflective practice is a useful technique to help you think about and analyse your experiences and can be used for many aspects of life. The use of reflective practice for a presentation can be particularly useful for helping to minimise feelings of nervousness for future presentations. See our page of Reflective Practice for more help and information.
Don't beat yourself up
Like most things in life, presentations are unlikely to be perfect and there are always ways you can improve. When you get feedback from others and reflect on your own performance, it is important that you understand this and give yourself a break. Think about the positives and what went well, and learn from any mistakes or elements that you feel unhappy with.
Treat yourself to something that you'll enjoy. Perhaps a glass of wine, or a nice cake or just a relaxing soak in the bath. Something to make you feel a bit special and recognise your achievement.
Continue to: Dealing with Presentation Questions Stress and Stress Management
See also: Preparing for a Presentation | Organising the Material The Newbie Blueprint for Virtual Presentation Success
How not to be nervous for a presentation
Do you have a presentation coming up at work? Is the mere thought of getting up and speaking in front of other people keeping you up at night?
Just imagining the situation where all your colleagues are watching you while you struggle to get through your presentation is enough to get your heart pounding and palms sweating.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
In this blog post, we will go over why you feel nervous for presentations, and offer some tips and tricks on how to better manage your nervousness.
Table of Contents
Why do you get nervous before presenting?
If you are nervous before a presentation, you likely have a fear of public speaking .
This is a widespread fear, affecting up to 75% of the population . As Mark Twain once said:
“ There are two types of speakers: those who get nervous and those who are liars ”.
Of course, some people have it worse than others. In some cases, people can just be a bit nervous, but ultimately be able to get over their fear and speak in front of others.
In other cases, this fear can be debilitating.
The phobia of public speaking is also called glossophobia .
Some of the signs of glossophobia can include:
- Shaky hands,
- Heart palpitations,
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure, and
- Intense anxiety and panic.
People who have this phobia will avoid public speaking at all costs. This can have a negative impact on their quality of life. They can lose out on opportunities, such as good jobs, because of their fear of any kind of public speaking.
For example, people who suffer from extreme glossophobia may quit their job if they get assigned tasks that involve public speaking. Also, they can have meeting anxiety and opt out of meetings if it involves having to speak.
If you suffer from extreme glossophobia, you should reach out for help. Mental health professionals are trained to help people who are suffering from phobias.
Is it normal to be nervous before a presentation?
It’s believed that public speaking is a fear rooted in prehistoric times.
Our ancestors relied on their tribe to survive, and getting rejected from the group meant bad news.
Speaking in front of people opens you up to just that — judgment and rejection.
Here’s what Linda Whiteside , a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, has to say about this fear:
“Public speaking is a skill, and just like every skill, once you keep doing it you become better at it, and eventually it becomes second nature. It is normal for us to be nervous when we are subjected to a task that we are not accustomed to, we tend to become agitated as the act is alien to us. Fear is a natural response. However, if it leads to being unable to perform our activities of daily living, it would be prudent to consult a professional.”
The most dreaded aspect of public speaking is the brain freeze .
This happens when our bodies release stress hormones that affect the brain. The frontal lobe is the part of the brain responsible for memories, and with an influx of stress hormones, it shuts down. This makes us freeze and forget what we were about to say.
The fight or flight response also plays a role.
This response protects us from threats — we can quickly react to danger without thinking about it. This was essential to our survival when we were constantly in danger of predators.
However, in modern times, this response can be engaged in situations that aren’t life-threatening, such as public speaking. This causes the brain to freeze and leaves us panicked.
The fear you feel when speaking in public is a biological response that we cannot control.
However, we can control our reaction to fear and how we deal with it .
How to cope with presentation nerves
Now that you’re aware of the biology behind this fear, let’s look at some of the ways you can manage it.
We’ll go over some tips and tricks on how to cope with your nerves before , during, and after a presentation .
There are some practices you can implement in your life for long-term stress and anxiety management, as well as tips and tricks you can use at that moment.
How to cope with nerves before the presentation
We’ll start with tips on how to better prepare for a presentation and ways to decrease stress and manage anxiety long-term.
Step #1: Reinforce your knowledge
The first step towards an anxiety-free presentation is to be prepared.
Make sure that you completely understand the topic you’re covering by researching as much as possible.
Also, try to think about questions that people could potentially have for you. This way, you will be ready to answer any questions that may arise.
Thoroughly knowing your material will leave you with one less thing to worry about during your presentation.
Step #2: Organize your presentation
Another important step in preparing for a presentation is to be organized.
Make sure to prepare a good slide presentation, with points that you can elaborate on freely. Organize it into distinct sections, and memorize the sequence of your talking points to always know what’s next.
Also, think about the technical details. Get to know your surroundings and the equipment you’ll be using to avoid any mishaps.
If you’re doing a presentation online, clear your desk of any clutter, and remove any distractions.
Taking care of these details will reduce your anxiety and make your presentation flow smoothly.
Step #3: Practice your presentation
Another way to decrease nervousness is to practice your presentation beforehand.
Go over your presentation fully, as if you’re already in front of an audience.
Imagine the audience in front of you, and talk as if they’re there. Although it may feel awkward at first, it will help you feel more comfortable when the day of the presentation comes.
You can stand in front of a mirror to observe your body language and make corrections if needed.
If you’re doing a presentation over a video call , another great tip is to turn on your camera app and practice your presentation this way.
Picturing your audience in front of you while you practice will help you visualize the atmosphere and get you used to the feeling of presenting.
Practicing will also help you locate the weak points of your presentation and correct them.
Step #4: Breathe/meditate
Breathing exercises and meditation are habits you can implement in your everyday life as a stress relief tool.
Meditation has been proven to decrease stress and anxiety levels, as well as help with other mental health issues. Meditation is an amazing tool to have as a part of your everyday life.
However, if you don’t feel like meditating is for you, you can get some of the benefits from meditation practices such as breathing exercises.
You can do some breathing exercises right before your presentation to calm your nerves and clear your head.
Step #5: Turn nervousness into excitement
Another way to ease nervousness is to rewire your brain to interpret nervousness as excitement.
One way to do this is to learn to differentiate between good and bad anxiety.
Anxiety is there for a good reason — sometimes you need to listen to your gut to get out of a bad situation.
However, if you’re anxious about a presentation at work, you can turn this anxiety into excitement.
For example, you have a big presentation at work tomorrow and your brain is running at full speed with thoughts such as: “ I’m so nervous, I’m totally going to mess this up. Everyone is just waiting for me to make a mistake ”.
This is the moment you can take control and rephrase your inner thoughts to a positive stance such as:
“ I’m excited to show everyone what I’ve been working so hard on. I’ll use all of this energy to deliver a great presentation and my coworkers will be stoked to learn something new ”.
This kind of positive thinking goes a long way to make you feel better about yourself.
If you keep this up for a long time, eventually you will rewire your brain to instantly interpret anxiety as excitement.
Step #6: Accept fear
We all experience fear, and we can all choose how we will deal with it.
Rather than trying to fight your fear of public speaking, try accepting it.
Fear is a normal part of life, and while it’s not always comfortable, it can serve as motivation rather than intimidation.
Fighting your fear or denying it altogether will only make it worse.
Instead of saying “ I’m scared, and I can’t do this ”, try telling yourself:
“ I’m scared, and I’m doing it regardless ”.
You can be scared and still do it.
Step #7: Avoid coffee
A practical tip for all the nervous people out there — avoid caffeine.
Caffeine is a stimulant, which means it increases your alertness and energy. However, that also means you can get side effects such as:
- Restlessness and shakiness,
- Fast heartbeat,
- Nervousness, and
- Trouble sleeping.
You can see why nerves and caffeine don’t go well together, so avoid coffee before your presentation.
If you generally suffer from anxiety, you should try ditching caffeine altogether, as this can positively impact your anxiety levels.
💡 Pumble Pro Tip :
For a more detailed analysis of how to prepare for presentations, take a look at our blog post:
- How to prepare for a presentation
How to cope with nerves during the presentation
You’re on stage now. The show is about to start.
Is there anything you can do to cope with nerves during your presentation? Of course there is.
Here are a few bits of advice on how to stay calm while you’re presenting.
Step #1: Drink water
While you’re talking, always keep some water near you.
When you talk for extended periods, your throat can get sore and dry, and drinking a few sips of water will help.
Also, taking the time to drink water will help you relax and slow down during your presentation.
So, always keep a water bottle at hand.
Step #2: Focus on the topic, not the audience
When you’re on stage, your goal is to pass on knowledge.
Focus on your topic and try not to think about the audience as much. They aren’t thinking about the shirt you chose to wear or the fact that you stumbled over your words during the previous slide.
The audience quickly forgets any mistakes and doesn’t obsess over them like you do.
Furthermore, remember that the majority of the people listening to your presentation would also be nervous while presenting. So, even if you do make a mistake, they will relate to you, rather than judge you.
The bottom line is that they are not here to judge, they’re here to learn.
Step #3: Slow down
When people are nervous, they tend to speed up their speech. This, in turn, makes them run out of breath and get even more nervous, which leads to panic mode.
Learn to talk at a moderate pace. Don’t be afraid to pause if you feel yourself picking up speed. It’s better to have a few seconds of silence than to stumble over your words because you’re talking too fast.
Remember to take deep breaths and try to sound conversational rather than rehearsed.
Step #4: Remember the 3 audience truths
Positive self-talk will boost your confidence — you can practice it in your daily life to get the full benefits.
Positive self-talk includes phrases and mantras that you repeat to yourself to:
- Feel more confident,
- Reduce anxiety, or
- Alter your thought process in any other way that benefits you.
Here are the 3 audience truths that even public speaker experts use to calm their nerves:
- They believe you’re the expert — don’t doubt yourself,
- They want you to succeed — they are on your side, and
- They won’t know when you make a mistake — don’t announce it.
Here’s what Barry Maher , an author and speaker, had to say about public speaking:
“ First of all, realize that it’s completely normal to be nervous before a presentation. I’ve been a professional speaker for over 20 years, and I have been nervous before almost every one of them. In fact, if I’m NOT nervous, I’ll try to make myself a bit nervous. It helps get my energy level up. Second, remember, nobody but you knows what you’re supposed to say. If you say it wrong, they’ll never know. Things go wrong all the time in my sessions. Maybe I’ll make a joke about it, or maybe I’ll just ignore it. Either way, the audience is fine. Your audience wants you to succeed. They’ll only get uncomfortable, if you become uncomfortable. ”
Evidently, he shares the same outlook defined in these 3 audience truths.
You can repeat these phrases to yourself before and during your presentation to beat your nerves.
Step #5: Don’t fear pauses
Pauses are a great tool to use when speaking in front of an audience.
A well-timed pause can be used to emphasize your point by giving the audience time to think about what you’ve said.
Also, learn to use pauses as a way to quickly collect yourself and calm down before continuing. A deep breath only takes a few seconds, but it will give you enough time to gather your thoughts.
Pausing is also a way to connect with the audience.
When you pause during a presentation, it gives people time to ask questions and relate to the speaker.
Embrace pauses and use them to your advantage.
Step #6: Maintain eye contact
Although it may feel daunting, maintaining eye contact with the audience is key to a confident speaking experience.
When you lock eyes with a member of the audience, you build rapport and increase engagement .
It can also be beneficial to pick a couple of people to focus on at a time. This will make you feel like there are fewer people in the room and ease your nervousness.
In a room full of people, it’s easy to get distracted. Maintaining eye contact with individuals will help you concentrate on your presentation.
Good eye contact is also a sign of confidence. If you look people in the eye, they will believe your message and respect you as the authority figure.
Step #7: Practice confident body language
Body language can tell you a lot about a person.
Stand up straight, open your arms, and put on a smile. This will not only make you appear more confident, but it will also make you feel better about yourself.
You can also use a power stance a couple of minutes before your presentation to gain confidence. Power stance is typically associated with:
- Chin tilted upward
- Lifted chest
- Hands on the hips
- Feet hip-width apart
Also, don’t be afraid to use your voice .
Increase the volume of your voice to emphasize key points and to appear more assertive and persuasive .
Another way you can battle nervousness on stage is by moving your body .
You can slowly walk across the stage or use your arms and hands to gesticulate while talking.
Moving around creates visual appeal for your audience and makes them concentrate on your presentation more.
Also, walking around will expend some of that nervous energy in a beneficial way.
However, do be careful when doing this, and move only in deliberate ways to avoid annoying your audience with too much movement.
To learn more about body language and how to improve it during virtual meetings, check out our blog post:
- 10 Tips for improving body language during virtual meetings
How to cope with nerves after the presentation
You’ve just finished your presentation, but you’re still full of that anxious energy. What can you do to shake it off?
Follow these steps to decompress and relax after the stressful situation.
Step #1: Recognize your achievement
First of all, take a deep breath and congratulate yourself on successfully finishing your presentation.
You deserve the praise you get from your coworkers, friends, and family, but don’t forget to pat yourself on the back as well.
Furthermore, treat yourself to something you enjoy. Go to that restaurant you like, or plan a movie night with loved ones.
Success deserves to be celebrated.
Step #2: Don’t obsess over mistakes
After celebrating your accomplishment, you can self-reflect.
Are you satisfied with your performance, or are there details you can improve upon?
This is the time to think about your presentation and analyze your mistakes to better prepare for your next speaking event.
However, analyzing your mistakes shouldn’t turn into obsessing over them and catastrophizing them in your mind.
Analyze, but don’t obsess!
Step #3: Ask for feedback
As part of your evaluation process, you should also be open to hearing opinions of others.
Ask the members of your audience what they liked and disliked about your presentation, and use it to improve yourself.
Ask trusted, experienced coworkers for their feedback , and don’t take it personally when you receive criticism.
Constructive feedback is paramount to growth.
Step #4: Take your mind off the presentation
When everything is said and done, take a break.
Take your mind off the presentation by enjoying your favorite activities.
You can exercise to release all the pent-up energy or watch a movie to decompress.
Another beneficial tip is to disconnect. This can do wonders for your mental health .
Turn off your work phone and mute your email notifications after work to let your mind rest after the stressful experience.
Should you disclose that you’re feeling nervous?
There is an ongoing debate in the sphere of public speaking on whether you should tell your audience you’re nervous.
On the one hand, people think you shouldn’t mention your nervousness.
It’s believed that you gain nothing from disclosing this and that you risk getting even more anxious. It’s said that once you disclose your nervousness to the audience, they’ll go looking for it and will be more likely to find it.
Furthermore, you’ll make the audience focus on your behavior, rather than the material.
On the other hand, some think it can be beneficial to be honest about your nervousness.
It’s believed that being upfront about your fear will reduce it by having the brain let go of the facade of confidence. A common recommendation is to deliver the admission with a humorous remark, as a way to connect with the audience.
In general, you want to appear confident, so it would probably be best to avoid talking about your nerves. However, in some situations, it may be a good icebreaker .
You need to consider your audience, type of presentation, and other factors, and then decide which approach fits your situation more.
Conclusion: You control your fear, not the other way around
Nervousness before any public speaking event is completely normal.
In a professional setting, it can be even more pronounced. But, we ultimately have control over how we deal with our fears.
You can let your fear consume and control you, or take steps to manage it and learn to live with it.
As someone who deals with the fear of public speaking and anxiety in general, believe me when I say it can get better. With enough practice and exposure, it gets easier.
So, believe in yourself, and take control of your fears on the path to a stress-free life.
✉️ What about you? Do you get nervous before presentations? Do you suffer from glossophobia? Or, are you maybe a confident public speaker with some interesting insights? Let us know at [email protected] and we might include your input in this or future posts. If you found this article helpful, share it with someone who would also benefit from it.
Milica Vucicevic is a communication author and researcher at Pumble, focused on team communication in remote work environments. Through her posts, you’ll learn more about professional communication, and tools and techniques for better team communication. As a remote worker herself, she relies on her experience when writing, and implements her findings in her own professional life. When she’s not writing blog posts, you can find her enjoying the great outdoors, replenishing her energy for her next quest for knowledge.
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