A few tips to manage presentation nerves

woman biting her nails

Would you like to learn how to manage presentation nerves?

“I was a tiger, a good fighter, in good shape, but I was always nervous before boxing matches.”  George Foreman

Even the twice heavy weight boxing champion of the world got nervous before a fight and he didn’t have to say a word.

When you were a small child how many times did you have to stand up to present in front of a group of people ?

Their eyes were solely on you as they expected you to say something interesting and meaningful?

If it did you were probably a nervous wreck

You probably weren’t taught how to manage presentation nerves as a child.

Then one day, you find yourself all grown up at work and your boss expects you to stand up regularly in front of people to inspire them.

It’s not natural

As Mark Twain once said, “There are two types of speakers: Those who get nervous and those who are liars.”

The Mindful Presenter knows how to manage presentation nerves

Remember how anxious you were moments before your first kiss?

Once you learned how to do it you didn’t want to stop.

All it took was a little courage and lots of practice.

It’s the same with presenting although without the kissing.

It’s not your fault

It’s the way our brains have functioned since the beginning of time.

Your brain is constantly scanning the environment looking for threats. 

Thousands of years ago being part of a group was essential to our survival. Any possible threat of being removed from the group was a major concern. If we stood out in the wrong way by saying something stupid or offensive or simply not meeting the expectations of the group we were in trouble.

Today, when you’re standing in front of all of those faces staring at you ready to open your mouth your. brain says:

‘ What if I make a fool of myself’

Even though over thousands of years we have evolved to not think like that, our brain hasn’t read the memo.

There’s plenty we can do to manage presentation nerves

Firstly though, don’t try to imagine your audience naked.

I don’t know anyone who is that good at visualizing and if you were, it’s likely to do you more harm than good.

Here are a few tips for managing presentation nerves before you speak.

1.  Take care of your audience

Remember that your presentation isn’t about you.

It’s about your audience and the more you make it about you, the more anxious you will feel.

Focus on the fact that you have something really important to say that will make a difference to their lives in some way.

2.  Mingle with the audience before you speak

Try to meet as many people as you can before-hand, just to introduce yourself and have a quick chat.

The simple process of introducing yourself to a few people, smiling and exchanging a few words will help to put your mind at ease.

3.  Know 3 things

 –         The room

 Arrive early and walk around the room the room you will be speaking in.

Become familiar with it.

Take a few minutes to simply stand where you will be speaking, look around and breathe, and smile.

 –         Your content

 Practice your speech or presentation and keep doing so it until you can present it with ease.

 –         How to breathe

 Breathe in slowly for a count of 5, exhale to the count of 5 and repeat that for a whole minute.

4.  Remember

Why you’re giving the presentation in the first place.

Remember the difference what you will have to say will make to your audience and how you want them to feel.

5.  Be an 8 of clubs

Imagine holding a deck of playing cards with the Royalty removed.

Each card from Ace to ten represents a level of confidence with Ace representing the lowest confidence. and 10 the highest.

The next time you speak, carry with you the 8 of clubs in your pocket or purse.

Imagine what it looks and feel like to be as high as an 8 in confidence and be that number while you speak.

It may sound ridiculous but it works.

6.  Be present

Find some willing friends, family members or colleagues to practice being really present with.

Stand in front of them for two minutes in complete silence and just make eye contact and be with them.

Try not to think about anything at all, just do your best to be with them.

It will feel very weird and uncomfortable at first but that works too.

7.  Find the friendly faces

Focus on the warm faces in the audience as you first begin to speak; the ones that look like they already like you.

Imagine you are having a one-on-one conversation with them.

As soon as you are comfortable, focus on the rest of the people in the room and make eye contact with as many as you can.

8.  Memorize your opening

The first minute is always the hardest.

Having a well prepared, effective, engaging open will lessen anxiety dramatically.

Do whatever it takes to remember the first minute of your presentation.

9.  Challenge the ‘ What if’s…

What if you forget what to say?

Your audience doesn’t like you?

What if they ask you a question you can’t answer?

Each of these situations would be unpleasant, but you would survive, so challenge them.

Tell yourself that they are extremely unlikely to happen and even if they did  you can deal with it.

10.  Acknowledge the source

Your fear is not that you don’t know your subject, it’s that you don’t know what will happen when you step up to speak.

Reframe that nervous energy as excitement.

See it as part of the fun and learning opportunity of presenting.

11.  Remember they can’t see your nervousness

You might think your neck is bright red or that you are constantly saying ‘err’.

It’s more than likely that your audience haven’t got a clue that you are as nervous as you feel inside.

People rarely look as nervous as you feel so take some comfort in that fact.

12.  Take it out on the wall

Stand about 12 inches away from a wall and place your palms flat on it.

Push against the wall remembering to breathe.

Do this a few times and notice the difference.

13.  Don’t make assumptions

If someone yawns, looks at their watch or whispers to the person seated next to them, don’t assume they are bored. 

Human beings yawn and look at their watches all of the time, it’s not personal.

14.  Focus on connecting, not presenting

It’s far easier to connect with people when you’re having a conversation so focus on doing that,rather than presenting to them.

It’s hard to be anxious when you are having a pleasant conversation.

When we stand in front of a group of people we are trying to influence in some way our reputation and character can often be perceived as being at risk. 

That means it’s entirely normal to feel nervous before speaking to any audience.

I’ve never yet met a speaker who doesn’t want to look good or doesn’t care about his or her performance.

It’s the fact that we care that elevates our anxiety.

Try out some of these tried and tested tips to see what works for you.

If you need a little help to manage presentation nerves:

– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.

– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.

– Get yourself some excellent presentation training

Image: Courtesy of flickr.com



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