If you are not nervous before a presentation, then you are lying to yourself. Even a veteran speaker gets butterflies. Here are some strategies to assist with overcoming nerves that can sabotage your talk.
Public speaking is a skill that everyone needs to cultivate, although most would rather be having a root canal instead. Why? People are fickle and frightening. An audience can turn as quickly as week-old bread. Whether it is a group of twenty or a group of 1,000, the dynamics of your presentation should stay the same. A stable foundation of how to reach your audience will give you the confidence to speak to any size crowd.
That alone won’t be enough however. So, here are some coping strategies to tip the scales continually in your favor.
Get rid of your nervous energy – Instead of fidgeting on the stage for all to see, burn off some of that energy with exercise. Exercise releases those feel-good endorphins that calm mood and outlook. If you don’t exercise, put on your favorite music and dance around the room.
Practice deep breathing – Your heart is racing. In order to calm it and your mind, learn to slow your breathing. Instead of short shallow breaths, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth in long draughts. This technique sends more oxygen to the brain, improving focus and mental recall.
Practice – Practice makes perfect but it also makes one prepared. When you know your information backwards and forward, the fear begins to melt away.
Memorize your opening – How will you begin the presentation? This is the most important step. Committing it to memory can combat some of the fears you have and stop anxious thoughts.
Visualize the outcome – Visualization may seem hokey, but it works. From start to finish, see yourself at the podium giving the lecture, talk or sales pitch. Imagine what would make the audience engage with you. Correct any mistakes you notice in the visualization so you can avoid them in real time.
Build breaks into the presentation – This is particularly important when you have an extended talk. A break gives the audience time to process what has been said as well as time for you to recoup your strength for the next segment.
Speak to the audience – If this presentation is a part of a larger event, take the time beforehand to attend mixers where you can mingle with some of the attendees. Get to know them a bit to dispel any preconceived thoughts that are making you anxious.
Jitters are not uncommon for any speaker. Calming them is the difference between a so-so presentation and a great one.