Uh oh! The boss just visited your office and asked you to prepare and deliver a presentation for the whole team. It isn’t due until next week but you can already feel the sweat dripping down your back, your heart is racing, and you can’t seem to catch your breath.
Sounds like you have a fear of public speaking. But don’t worry, we’re here to help. In this article, we share five tips you can use to calm your nerves before a presentation.
5 Tips to Calm Your Nerves
Let’s get right to it! The following five tips will help you calm your nerves and get over your fear of presenting. Who knows? After implementing these strategies, you may just become the next Tony Robbins!
1. Realize That You’re Not Alone
It can be a great comfort to realize that you aren’t the only one who gets nervous before a presentation or public speaking engagement. In fact, you’re in the majority. According to the University of Iowa, 75% of people experience Glossophobia, which is the fear of public speaking and also happens to be the most common phobia there is.
So don’t worry. You’re not weird or pathetic for feeling the way you do. The same symptoms you feel before a presentation — you know the ones we’re talking about: the tightening of your stomach, the sweaty palms, in some cases nauseousness — are experienced by countless others every day.
You’re not alone. And if others have conquered their fear of public speaking so can you! The trick is discovering how to rise above your anxiety. The rest of the tips in this article will help you do just that.
2. Pinpoint Your Anxiety
Okay, so you’ve got an important presentation coming up and you’ve got a case of the heebie-jeebies. No matter what you do, you can’t seem to shake that sinking feeling in your gut. Sound familiar? It may help to pinpoint your anxiety and determine why exactly you feel it.
Generally, anxiety can be traced back to one of three main causes: your location, your audience, or your goals. Let’s look at each of these individually.
Perhaps it’s your current location that has you nervous and sweaty. For example, if you were asked to create a presentation for your company’s board members and deliver it at a fine dining restaurant, the exquisite chandeliers, fancy cutlery, and black tie dress code might get the butterflies swarming. After all, you’re not used to this environment.
If your anxiety is rooted in your location, there are a few things you could try:
- Flip the Narrative: Tell yourself that you aren’t nervous, you’re excited. When people get excited, they often feel many of the same things they do when they’re nervous.
- Set Expectations: When you begin to feel anxious, remind yourself that you expected to feel that way. These feelings aren’t catching you off guard.
- Reframe It: Remind yourself that your presentation isn’t a performance, even though you might be giving it in a ritzy environment. All you’re doing is sharing ideas.
Maybe the people in the audience are what’s got you flustered. Going back to our previous example, you can handle the upscale location, but the fact that your company’s top decision-makers will be listening to what you have to say fills you with dread. We have a few ideas for you too:
- Visualize Success: Before giving your presentation, visualize it being successful in your mind’s eye. “See” victory beforehand and you’ll be much more likely to achieve it.
- Get Personal: It can help to greet and connect with your audience before giving your presentation. They may be important people but they’re still human.
- Forget About You: Think of your presentation as a way to help your audience, not as a notch in your belt or a step in your career. This takes the focus off of you.
Lastly, sometimes goals can trip you up. You start thinking about what you want to achieve, then you start realizing what might happen if you don’t achieve it. Pretty soon, you’re putting so much pressure on yourself to nail your presentation, it’s no wonder you’re nervous! Here’s how to handle this kind of situation:
- Be in the Moment: Do your best to NOT think about the future. Think about what’s happening at that exact point in time. If you haven’t given your presentation yet, listening to music or performing physical activities can help you stay present. When you are in the middle of your speech, focus on the information you’re delivering.
- Deliver Takeaways: By “takeaways” we mean, major points you want your audience to walk away from your presentation with. Not only with this help you be in the moment, but it will also give you confidence. You’ll feel encouraged that you’re delivering actionable information to your audience. Confidence is the opposite of nervousness.
3. Make Sure You’re Prepared
One of the best ways to reduce anxiety about a presentation is to make sure you’re completely prepared for it. Have you studied your topic and do you know it like the back of your hand? If not, it’s time to beat your procrastination and get to work! But preparation extends beyond a deep knowledge of your subject. You also need to:
Practice Like You Mean It
Practice giving your presentation multiple times before you actually deliver it for real. And don’t just gloss over the points in your head. Physically act out the entire speech in the privacy of your own home. Watch yourself in the mirror. Speak out loud and listen to your voice deliver each of your points.
When you feel confident giving your presentation alone, ask a family member or close friend to watch you give it as well. This will get you used to speaking in front of others while maintaining a safe atmosphere. This audience may also be able to help you adjust any clumsy sections of your presentation that you hadn’t noticed.
Take Care of Your Body
You also need to make sure your body is prepared before giving a speech — especially if you’re feeling the nerves in a big way. Make sure you go to bed on time the night before and get enough sleep. You’ll also want to make sure that you eat a hearty meal well before you’re set to speak to your audience. You don’t want to experience any kind of stomach issues mid-speech.
Now, let’s talk about your appearance. If you want your presentation to be taken seriously, you need to look the part. Depending on your industry, the type of presentation you’re giving, and a host of other factors, this could mean an array of different things. In general, choose clothes that fit the occasion and ensure you’re well-groomed before taking the stage.
And lastly, in regards to your body, remember to regulate your breathing during your presentation. This is important! Proper breathing will help you overcome your nerves and allow you to deliver your speech in a professional manner.
Part of proper preparation is positive thinking. You need to banish negative self-talk from your thought life before, during, and after you give your presentation. If you’re convinced your efforts will ultimately fail, they probably will.
But by thinking positively and assuring yourself that you can and will give a great presentation, you’ll set yourself up for success. Remember our visualization tip from earlier? Use it! “See” yourself succeeding. “Hear” the thunderous applause after you’ve left the stage.
It may seem silly to you now but positive thinking and visualization are two keys to overcoming anxiety.
Have a Fallback Plan
And finally, the truly prepared public speaker always has a backup plan. This can come in many forms such as a notebook full of notes or even a fully typed out speech. If you suddenly lose your place or forget a key point, you can quickly consult the documents in front of you and regain your place. We don’t recommend that you read from your notes word for word. That will come across unnatural and unengaging. Instead, only use your notes as a safety blanket.
You could also prepare a joke or two and keep them at the ready. Humor can be a great way to engage your audience and loosen your nerves. Just make sure that you use an appropriate jest and then get right back into your presentation.
4. Engage Your Audience
Prioritizing engagement will benefit your presentation in two ways: first, it will get your audience involved and make them more receptive to your ideas. And second, it will help calm your nerves. When your audience is visibly connecting with your speech, you’ll feel energized and score a boost in confidence, banishing your anxiety.
Fortunately, involving your audience isn’t all that difficult. You could, for example, ask them questions directly. This forces them to engage with your material. Also, make sure that you look at the folks in the crowd and not at your notes the entire presentation! It’s tough to connect with a speaker when you can’t see their eyes.
Additionally, we recommend that you prepare some kind of audio-visual aids or multimedia presentation to accompany your speech. This is especially helpful if you plan to showcase a lot of numbers or will attempt to explain complex topics.
But even if the information you plan to deliver is rudimentary, visuals involve more of your audiences’ senses and will further engage them in your presentation.
5. Present Regularly
Finally, if you really want to get over your fear of public speaking, you should seek out opportunities to present more often. When you force yourself to give presentations on a regular basis, you’ll naturally become less fearful and better equipped to deliver them successfully.
This may sound like a terrible idea to you. But public speaking is a wonderful skill. If you can master it, you’ll become much more valuable in the workplace and give yourself the chance to elevate your career in ways you never before thought possible.
So don’t dismiss this last tip right away. Consider presenting regularly and whether the potential benefits of doing so are worth it to you.
Over to You
Giving presentations can be incredibly stressful. Most of us don’t enjoy public speaking and may even have real fears about doing it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t successfully present your ideas when the occasion calls for it. You just have to use the five tips listed in this blog post.
Always remember that you’re not alone in your struggles. Then do your best to pinpoint your anxiety, do what’s required to prepare for your speech, and engage your audience. If you really want to defeat your fear of presenting, seek out more opportunities to speak in front of others. Good luck to you!