by Adam Noar
If you are like most people, then giving a presentation is not one of your favorite things to do.
After all, presentations can be scary! And the statistics don’t lie:
Of all the phobias out there, public speaking is considered the highest. 75% of individuals suffer from speech anxiety.
For the 7 years that Presentation Panda has been around, we have provided countless strategies for creating awesome looking slides. But even when walking into a presentation with an OUTSTANDING slide deck it’s still possible to get nervous.
Trust me, I’ve certainly been there. In fact, it’s totally natural to feel a bit nervous. Even the best presenters in the world get a bit nervous!
With this in mind, you owe it to yourself to learn how to calm your presentation nerves as much as possible. This way you can stay concentrated on focusing on your audience and delivering an engaging talk.
To help you out, we have put together ten simple strategies that will help you feel calm and relaxed before and during your presentation.
Presentation nerve calming tip #1.) Know your material
First things first … you must know your stuff inside and out.
As obvious as this sounds many people go into their presentation and “wing it” only half-knowing the information they are talking about.
And let me tell you … nothing is worse for presentation anxiety than trying to give a presentation on a topic that you’re not totally familiar with.
Making sure you’ve properly understood your audience and their needs will help ensure your material is on-point. In order to know what your audience is looking for, you’ve got to do some research. More on this later.
Also, remember that you can’t possibly cover everything you know in one presentation.
Pick out the most important points from your subject and supplement them with other material if time allows.
Presentation nerve calming tip #2.) Organize your slide deck
Having an organized presentation deck will also calm your nerves.
Arrange your slides so that you give yourself reminders about upcoming material.
If you’re using PowerPoint, the best way to keep your slide deck organized is by using transition slides that break up your material into different sections.
To give you a head start here are 5 free transition slides you can download today.
A professional presentation template is another way to get a head start.
By putting in the work to thoughtfully organize your slides you will have a better shot at guiding your audience through your message and getting them to act.
Beyond the organization part, you also want to make sure your slide deck looks as nice as possible. Going into a presentation with a snazzy looking presentation will greatly reduce your presentation anxiety.
Presentation nerve calming tip #3.) Know your audience
We touched on this in tip #1.
Define what makes your audience unique by identifying their concerns and questions. The best way to do this is by finding people who are representative of your anticipated audience and ask what they would expect from the presentation.
If it makes sense, greet your audience members at the door and do a quick poll of why they are there and what their expectations are.
Presentation nerve calming tip #4.) Practice at a minimum for one hour
Getting familiar with your presentation material will build confidence and help you to deliver your words naturally (so you don’t sound like a robot).
Once your comfortable with the material its time is time to do a practice run. When you practice pull out your smartphone and record yourself. Then, when you’re done play it back and listen to the way you speak (your tone and your speed) and adjust appropriately.
I get it … many people do not like seeing and hearing themselves on camera but it’s one of the best ways to improve.
In terms of how much time you should practice your presentation, aim for at least one hour. Based on our recent subscriber survey, 79% put in at least one hour of practice while 44% put in at least 3 hours.
Presentation nerve calming tip #5.) Be prepared
Once you know what you are going to say, you need to be prepared for all the things that could hijack your presentation (technology issues, hostile questions, etc.)
You can’t account for everything that can go wrong, but you should try to anticipate potential problems and have backup plans place in case of equipment failure. If possible, give everything one last run-through in the actual environment. Remember to prepare responses to anticipated questions.
Presentation nerve calming tip #6.) Channel your inner calm
Nervousness causes physical reactions in the body which are mostly caused by an increase of adrenaline in your system. You can counteract these effects with a few simple techniques:
Practice belly breathing – Deep belly breathing is one of the simplest and fastest relaxation techniques. Also, if you’re into meditation, make sure to do some of that the day of your presentation as it can clear your head of negative thoughts. To pick just one of many recent studies, Zeidan et al. (2013) found that four 20-minute meditation classes were enough to reduce anxiety by up to 39%.
Smile – Did you know that it’s impossible to be fearful while smiling? Smiling is a natural relaxant that sends positive chemicals through your body.
Use visualization techniques – Imagine that you are delivering your presentation to an audience that is beyond thrilled with your presentation and reacting positively (standing up, clapping, cheering, picking you up with “we are the champion” playing in the background) … you get the idea!
Positive visualization is very powerful.
Presentation nerve calming tip #7.) Power Stance
Practicing confident body language is another way to reduce your presentation anxiety.
When your body is physically demonstrating confidence, your mind will follow suit. If you don’t believe me try this simple exercise:
- Sit in a chair and stay hunched over for 1 minute. Notice how you feel.
- Now, stand up, pinch your shoulders back, and put your hands on your hips for 1 minute. Notice how you feel again.
After doing the above exercise you should clearly be able to tell the difference between how you feel between sitting down hunched over and standing up in a strong power stance.
While you don’t want to be jutting out your chest in an alpha gorilla pose all afternoon researchers like Amy Cuddy have shown that using power stances a few minutes before giving a talk creates a lasting sense of confidence and assurance. Whatever you do, don’t sit–sitting is passive. Standing or walking a bit will help you harness those stomach butterflies.
Presentation nerve calming tip #8.) Exercise the day of presentation
If you know when you’ll be speaking publicly, plan a good workout earlier in the day.
If you’re pressed for time or energy, even a brief walk can really help.
We all know that exercising reduces anxiety because when you exercise you release endorphins that make you feel better. Exercise also increases the body temperature, which can have a calming effect. It distracts you from your worries and helps you feel more confident.
Presentation nerve calming tip #9.) Don’t memorize word for word
Unless you’re reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or your marriage vows, there’s no need to memorize every word of any speech.
Attempting to do so will simply increase stress, and cause greater nervousness if the sequence of the words you’re trying to memorize goes amiss.
Presentation nerve calming tip #10.) Look at a picture of someone your love right before you get on stage
This isn’t a widely recognized tip but it works wonders for me.
Before I start my presentation I have a habit of pulling out my phone or glancing at my Apple Watch to look at a picture of someone I love and think about how thankful I am they are in my life. Practicing gratitude will change your mindset and eliminate your presentation anxiety.
As Tony Robbins once said, “gratitude is the solution to anger and fear” It’s so true! You truly can’t feel fear and gratefulness at the same time. It’s impossible!
When it comes to presenting, nerves are pretty much expected. The trick is not letting your nerves get the better of you!
Find ways to take the focus off your nervousness and put that energy to positive use. By controlling as much of the uncertainty as you can, you 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.
Nerves are not your enemy and you don’t have to fear public speaking. For your next presentation, be knowledgeable, be well practiced and prepared, and try out some of the tips outlined in this article.
Now get out there and impress your audience with your calm and cool delivery of a great presentation!
Here is my question for you …
Which of the presentation nerve calming methods in this post do you like the most?
Sound off in your comments below… And please remember to be specific as possible.
Also, do you have a friend that is currently a bit nervous about his/her upcoming presentation and could benefit from learning about these tips to stay calm in front of an audience? If so, send them a link to this blog post right now. I’m sure, they will return the favor to you one day!
Finally, if you enjoyed reading this post, please remember to like and share using the sharing icons to the left.