• Antony Campbell

Presentation Zen: 12 Tips for Managing your Nerves


You’ve probably heard it said many times before—the fear of public speaking is considered by many to be their number one fear. But in business, it is vitally important for you to be able to get your message across wherever you need to. Whether you're giving a formal presentation to an audience, or simply asking your boss for a promotion, speaking skills are essential to getting ahead in a professional setting.

Those nerves you feel? They're only natural - and there are a range of very simple techniques that you can use to help you overcome them. There are even ways to help harness your energy in a positive way, because those nerves can also help you deliver an amazing performance. 

Read on if you want to know more...



AT HOME


1. Prepare thoroughly. This means thinking about the audience, researching thoroughly, and putting real thought into your presentation structure. Always take the time to rehearse. Not just once—you should rehearse it several times. And not just by reading through your slides either. If you’re giving your presentation standing up, you should rehearse standing up, saying your presentation aloud (use your bathroom to make the most of the “singing in the shower” acoustics).


Practice your presentation until you’re able to deliver it comfortably. If you do it over and over again, it will greatly reduce anxiety. There’s no shortcut—rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse again until you sound natural.

2. Script your introduction and conclusion. Knowing that you have a strong opening and closing and knowing exactly what you’re going to say in between will help to reassure you. Be sure to rehearse the links between different topics or subject areas as it’s in these areas that people often stumble.


3. Think about potential questions - and prepare and rehearse possible responses in advance.


4. Think of your presentation as a conversation with your audience rather than a lecture. The most effective presentations maximize audience participation by getting people thinking or talking, so ask them a question, ask for their views or experiences, or plan for some small group work. This will also take the pressure off you for a few moments.


5. Practice your speech in front of the mirror as if you were speaking directly to someone. Pay attention to:

Your facial expressions Your gestures Your body movements How welcoming you appear


BEFORE YOU BEGIN


6. Familiarize yourself with the environment in which you are going to be presenting and the equipment you will be using. This will boost your confidence and ensure that you’re not worrying about technical details at a time when you should be concentrating on your delivery.


When you have gentle expressions and a calm demeanor when you speak, you will be more welcoming to your audience, and you'll also feel calmer and more in control

7. Distract yourself. Talk to your audience before the session starts. You won’t be able to do any more preparation at this stage and building a rapport with your audience in advance will help you feel more comfortable.


8. Visualize a successful presentation, rather than worrying about what could go wrong.


9. Try some of the warm-up or relaxation exercises, like deep breathing. Or warm up by practicing (at the very least, practice your introduction and conclusion).


AS YOU PRESENT


10. Focus on your audience—your presentation is about them, not you. Don’t assume they’ll be hostile: it’s in their interests for you to do well.


When you have gentle expressions and a calm demeanor when you speak, you will be more welcoming to your audience, and you'll also feel calmer and more in control

11. Don’t worry if you forget something or something goes wrong—what people will remember is how you handled the situation. If you’ve forgotten to cover a certain point, just take the audience back to the relevant section and add the point. If you forget what you’re going to say next, just pause, collect your thoughts, and refer to your notes. The time it takes to do this won’t seem anywhere near as long to the audience as it will to you.


12. Be yourself—audiences respond to real personalities, rather than a “professional front.”