How to beat your presentation nerves
It is normal to get presentation nerves, but there are ways to conquer them, or at least make it easier to get through! Here are 8 useful tips.
Even the most seasoned of speakers gets presentation nerves – so don’t be surprised if you do. It’s normal. We worry about being boring, people leaving early, forgetting our content, needing to go to the bathroom, being unable to answer questions, keeping the audience engaged, our tights falling down, losing a button on a blouse or technology letting us down. The list is endless. I once saw a top politician have a bad case of brain freeze on national television. She just forgot her main points.
But some nerves are good, it means the adrenalin is kicking in.
So here are 8 tips that help even experienced presenter make a flawless delivery!
TIP 1: THINK POSITIVE THOUGHTS!
Focus on how well you are going to do rather than get caught up in a cycle of self-destructive negative thoughts. Remember, you can’t live a positive life with a negative mind and that philosophy drills down to every thought you have. Yes, every one! If you convince yourself you are going to mess up, the chances are …you will. Own your capacity for success and you will succeed!
TIP 2: CHANNEL YOUR ENERGY
Whether you do the TED star Amy Cuddy power pose, stretch out, voice exercises or stand on your chair and howl at the moon. Get to a place where you feel empowered.
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TIP 3: CONCENTRATE ON SOMETHING OTHER THAN YOU
This shifts the focus from what’s going on for you, to an external object or person. Look closely at a light or door at the back of the room. The usher in the side aisle, or the woman with a blue dress in the 5th row. It doesn’t matter.
Just concentrate your thinking on something else and get into the zone!
TIP 4: DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE!
Whether we become agitated or paralysed with nerves, breathing always helps. Body language coach Sofie-Ann Bracke recommends taking three or four deep, evenly paced breaths, inhaling and exhaling regularly and slowly. Let your belly go and the breath move all the way down into your abdomen. This centres your energy and focuses your thoughts.
TIP 5: CONTROL YOUR BODY LANGUAGE
Beware of the nervous ticks that kick in when you are in front of an audience. Whether it’s playing with your glasses, fiddling with your hair, tapping your fingers or foot, or standing awkwardly and rocking from side to side , we all have little strategies that help us feel comfortable. Ask for feedback from a trusted coach or colleague and practise in front of a mirror to self-monitor. Conscious rehearsed movement is perfectly fine says Sofie-Ann, especially if it resonates and is in time with your verbal content to make a message more impactful.
TIP 6: VARY THE PITCH OF YOUR DELIVERY
You can strengthen your message by adjusting the tone and pace of your delivery. Make sure that it is in line with the content and the emphasis you want to convey. Rehearse well so that you are pitch perfect! If you have a strong accent, compensate by allowing pauses so that people understand you. If you use regional colloquialisms think about providing a translation service.
You can throw in a bit of humour. It’s the most powerful tool for nerves there is!
TIP 7: DRINK WATER BEFORE YOU START TALKING!
If you get a dry throat or mouth, drink water before you start speaking off stage. No you won’t need the bathroom! Once on the stage the glugging sound will be picked up by the audio. Practise your voice warming exercises at the same time between sips.
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TIP 8: PREPARE FOR THE UNEXPECTED
Everyone wants you to succeed, but sometimes things go wrong even with masses of practise and rehearsing. Have a few little disaster one liners up your sleeve – just in case. It helps break the tension for both you and the audience. Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain and George Bernard Shaw are all good regular fall backs!
Here’s one from Miley Cyrus:
I always say the minute I stop making mistakes is the minute I stop learning and I’ve definitely learned a lot.
Good luck – what tips would you add?
What’s the worst presentation disaster you have ever had?