You have been practicing the big presentation for weeks now, and it is finally show time. You are well rehearsed, polished, ready for questions, and confident. Just as you stand up, a wave of nervousness comes over you. Suddenly your hands are sweating, you look flushed, you can’t keep your train of thought, and you are certain everyone is judging you.
Like it or not, we all have nervous tendencies as it relates to public speaking. Here are 10 tips to control your nerves before your next presentation.
Now, we don’t mean that every time you practice your presentation it has to be perfect. What we mean is that you should practice exactly how you plan on giving your presentation on the big day. Even the smallest changes on presentation day can really make you nervous. Remember: perfect practice makes perfect.
Technology is a blessing and a curse when it comes to presentations. Be sure that you test ALL of the technical components of your presentation in advance. If possible, practice in the space where you will be giving the presentation. Identify a tech savvy colleague who will be at the presentation who can jump in if you have a technical difficulty.
Now that you have practiced your presentation exactly how you are going to do it on the big day – you have to be ready for curveballs. Inevitably, your presentation time or location may change, technology may fail, or you might have a larger audience than expected. Stay flexible, and roll with the punches.
Ahh…breathing, so simple, right? Yet, sometimes-when-we-give-presentations-all-of-our-sentences-run-together-because-we-forget-to — breathe. Don’t be afraid to pause and breathe – this will give your audience time to think and you time to keep a hold of your nerves.
The weekday tendency is to skip breakfast and go for a nice venti triple shot mocha to kick it into gear. The trouble is that the caffeine, coupled with your anxious nerves, will make you super shaky and uneasy. Skip the Starbucks and opt for water. Also, keep water nearby during your presentation in case you catch a frog in your throat.
We have all seen the tragic “fainter” during a presentation. The top two causes of fainting during a presentation are an empty stomach (skipping breakfast) and lack of blood flow and oxygen to the brain (locking knees). Make sure you have food in your system and keep a comfortable stance. Move around occasionally to ensure you aren’t locking your knees.
Equally as important to looking sharp is feeling comfortable. Make sure you aren’t wearing something brand new, too tight, short, big, long, or uncomfortable. The audience will be distracted, and you will be stressed if you are uncomfortable. If you get hot while you present, keep it in mind when you choose your attire. Most importantly, make sure your shoes are comfortable.
Often, questions can throw us off after a great presentation and make us extremely nervous. Think of potential questions in advance, and how you might answer them. Don’t get defensive about questions, and admit ignorance if you don’t know the answer.
The best way to know how you are going to do in advance is to practice for someone. Give your presentation a couple of days in advance, and then ask for candid feedback. This will give you time to make adjustments and practice again before the big day.
To continue to improve as a presenter, ask your manager or someone in the audience how you did. Hearing how great you did will put your nerves at ease for next time.