Everyone is nervous sometimes before giving a presentation. So how can you control your nerves, and how can you stop them from killing your presentation?
You can help to control your nerves at several moments. Here are the four most important:
1. When you’re making the presentation
Imagine that for your audience your presentation is like a gift: they just love to listen to you. And they believe everything you say. Would you still be nervous then? Not so much, I would guess.
When you’re making your presentation, don’t just think about the information you want to give your audience. Also think about what they want to hear. What are they really looking for? Make sure you create a presentation that tells them what they want to know! A presentation they’ll see as a gift.
Then you’ll have less to worry about. Because you can – almost – be sure that they’ll be enthusiastic about what you’re going to tell them.
2. When you’re practising your presentation
Have you ever seen one of those speakers who effortlessly tells their story with a catchy start, nice one-liners and a dazzling conclusion? Sometimes, that just comes naturally. But most speakers only reach this level by repeated practice. Time and time again.
So practise your presentation in advance, and take the time for it. At first, read it out loud a few times a day, and then give it at home. With a presenter in your hand, either alone or to your partner, your kids – or even the dog. Do this a few days in a row. You’ll see that your presentation ‘grows’ on you as you get more familiar with it. And you’ll gain confidence that will prevent a lot of those nerves.
3. Just before you give your presentation
And then it’s almost time: the moment to show those people your world, and to make them really believe in your ideas. But despite all your preparation, you still feel a bit small and unsure of yourself. There’s a very easy way to handle this: watch this TED Talk by social psychologist Amy Cuddy.
In this talk, Amy introduces the term ‘power posing’.
By literally making yourself as big as possible a couple of minutes before your presentation (for example in the bathroom), your body creates testosterone and lowers the cortisol level. This makes you feel more confident of yourself. And if you feel more sure of yourself, you’ll be less affected by your nerves.
4. Right after you take the stage
And then… you’re standing in front of your audience and your breath suddenly stops. Your throat is dry, and your voice is stuttering. Even though you’ve prepared so well. But don’t worry, because even at this late stage, there’s an easy way to control your nerves!
When you’re standing on stage for your presentation, you might want to start talking straight away. Because the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be finished, right?
But that doesn’t make you any more confident. It only shortens the duration of the punishment…
The best thing to do: just go on stage and relax first. Don’t say anything yet. Stand firm. Spread your weight evenly on both feet. Feel the floor underneath them. Take deep, relaxing breaths, and look at your audience for a few seconds.
And then, you’re ready to start.
They’ll hang on your every word. And you might even enjoy every moment!
About the author:
Joeri Cox is partner at Bento Presentations, a full service presentation design company based in The Netherlands.
Joeri is a presentation developer and a presentation trainer who helps people in making and giving professional presentations according to the inhouse-developed New Way of Presenting™-method.
Furthermore, he loves to give seminars on the New Way of Presenting™, with inspired people who give better presentations instantly, as a result.
Some great tips there. Rehearsal for me is really key – but not to the extent that I’ll be memorising the content. Instead I want to KNOW the content inside out.
I can also recommend doing a Toastmasters course. Nothing like practice!