We do many presentations ourselves, every week, but we also guide participants in Presentation Skills. The one thing we hear time and time again is that you love doing the presentation, but right before hand, the nerves can get out of control, so you want to know how to overcome them.
Follow these simple hints before your next presentation, and it can help you to calm your nerves and set you up for an optimal address.
- Practice Practice Practice. Of course, you’ll want to rehearse your presentation multiple times. While it can be difficult for those with packed schedules to spare a chance to practice, however, it’s essential if you want to deliver an entertaining, engaging and exciting presentation. If you want to sound great, write out your speech rather than taking chances winging it.
Do not be deceived by the idea that great speakers don’t need to practice at all because even the greatest speeches were effectively delivered with continuous practice.
Try to practice; imagine where you’ll be delivering your talk/presentation. We always suggest rehearsing your lines in different positions and situations. For example: sitting down, standing up, with arms open wide, on one leg, while sitting on the bus, (and our favourite) in the mirror (so you can see what you look like when you’re giving your speech). The more you rehearse what you’re saying and the more positions you can practice in, the more comfortable you’ll feel with your address. Also, try recording your presentation and playing it back to evaluate which areas need work. This enables you to pinpoint which lines you’d like to deliver in a different manner and which lines you want to highlight in your speech.
- Remodel Nervous Energy Into Fire. Saying a mantra, drinking water, meditating, listening to an energising song, can help to wake up those endorphins that will set your enthusiasm level to the extreme and get you ready to present with gusto. Studies have shown that an enthusiastic speech can win out over an eloquent one, and make sure that enthusiasm, passion and energy are present before going on stage. As nervous as you may get, try to keep channeling your inner fire and continue that aura seconds before your big speech.
- Attend Other Speeches. If you’re giving a talk as part of a larger series, try to visit some of the earlier talks by other presenters. It shows respect for your fellow presenters while also giving you a chance to feel out the audience. What’s the mood of the crowd? Is the audience in the mood to laugh or are they a bit stiffer? Are the presentations more strategic or tactical? Another speaker may also say something that you can play off of later in your presentation. You can also make references to the previous presenters that offers a nice segway to areas that you may speak about in your presentation.
- Arrive Early. It’s always best to allow yourself plenty of time to settle in before your talk. Extra time ensures you won’t be late and gives you plenty of time to get adapted to your presentation space (physical, emotional and mental). Arriving late will only heighten your nervous levels to the point of forgetting what you initially practiced.
- Focus on Your Surroundings. The more adjusted to your environment you are, the more comfortable you’ll feel. Make sure to spend some in the room where you will be delivering your presentation. If possible, practice with the microphone and lighting, make sure you understand the seating and be aware of any distractions potentially posed by the venue (traffic outside, sunlight beaming in through the sheer curtain on the left, spot light on you needs to be adjusted, music needs to be connected). Again, to take the time to do this, always be sure you arrive earlier than the set time.
- Meet and Greet. Do your best to chat with people before your presentation. Talking with audiences makes you seem more likeable and approachable. Ask event attendees questions and take in their responses. They may even give you some inspiration to weave into your talk.
- Use Positive Visualisation. Whether or not you consider yourself a master of Zen, know that plenty of studies have proven the effectiveness of positive visualisation. When we imagine a positive outcome to a scenario in our mind, it’s more likely to play out the way we envision.
Instead of thinking “I’m going to be terrible out there” and visualising yourself throwing up mid-presentation, imagine yourself getting tonnes of laughs while presenting with the enthusiasm. Positive thoughts can be incredibly effective–give them a shot.
- Take Deep Breaths. The go-to advice for nerves has truth to it. When we’re nervous, our muscles tighten–you may even catch yourself holding your breath. Instead, take those deep breaths to get oxygen to your brain, blood circulating through your body and relax your muscles (and grip). Do this when you’re either taking a comfortable seat somewhere, enjoying a well-paced walk and not when you’re trotting back and forth which only shows your nerves are tensed.
- Smile. Smiling increases endorphins, replacing anxiety with calm and making you feel good about your presentation. Smiling also exhibits confidence and enthusiasm to the crowd. Just don’t overdue it–no one enjoys the maniacal clown look.
- Exercise. Exercise earlier in the day before your presentation to boost endorphins, which will help alleviate anxiety. Start your day with a good cardio to get those endorphins pumping. Maybe a jog or a round on the treadmill will do.
- Work on Your Pauses. When you’re nervous, it’s easy to speed up your speech and end up talking way too fast, which in turn causes you to run out of breath, get more nervous, and panic!
Don’t be afraid to slow down and use pauses in your speech; pausing can be used to emphasise certain points and to help your talk feel more conversational and ‘healthy’. If you feel yourself losing control of your pacing, just take a nice pause and keep calm.
Some speakers use the method of outlining their pauses on their script and practice it by heart for them to correctly paused at which part of their speech they’d like.
- Use a Power Stance. Practising positive body language is another way to boost your pre-presentation jitters. When your body is physically demonstrating confidence, your mind will follow suit. Studies have shown that using power stances a few minutes before giving a talk creates a lasting sense of trust and assurance. Whatever you do, don’t sit, because sitting is a passive activity. Standing or walking a bit will help you harness those butterflies. Before you go on stage, strike your best Power Pose and hold your head high!
- Drink Water. Dry mouth is a common result of anxiety. Prevent cottonmouth blues by staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water before your talk (just don’t forget to hit the bathroom before starting). Keep a bottle of water at arm’s reach while presenting if you get dry mouth while giving your talk. It also provides a solid object to hurl at potential hecklers.
- Don’t Fight the Fear. Accept your fear rather than trying to fight it. Getting yourself worked up by wondering if people will notice your nervousness will only intensify your anxiety. Remember, those jitters aren’t all bad–harness that nervous energy and transform it into real enthusiasm and you’ll be golden. Being nervous means you want to do a good job, and it’s a normal human reaction, it just means you have blood pumping through your veins.
Overcoming your nerves comes easy when you’re exposed to different kinds of presenting opportunities and continuous training. If you’re interested how all these can be applied in real life situations, we’ll be happy to talk you through with our Presentation Skills course.
About the Author:
Rebecca is the Director, Coach, Mentor and Lead Trainer of The Training Establishment Pty Ltd. She has over 25 years experience in the Hospitality, Travel & Tourism industry, Rebecca is an expert in creating dynamic leaders, specialising (but not limited to) Sales & Marketing. Her passion for imparting knowledge, cultivating great teams by educating and nurturing great talent with her own unique style of panache, fun and finesse. Rebecca believes, everyone in your company is a salesperson, no matter what your job title is.
As the founder and host of Etiquette Hour @ETIQhour group on Facebook, a regular dedication to helping young people learn all things business etiquette, motivation and sales tips.