How to handle presentation nerves

You’ve got a big presentation to give, but your hands are shaking and you can’t remember how to speak. Don’t worry – follow our guide to calm your pre-presentation nerves.

Even the most experienced presenters get stage fright – especially if it’s an important meeting or presentation. But you can control them with good preparation, a few tips and a solid back-up plan.

Be prepared
Planning is the best way to make sure it’ll all go well. While you can’t plan for the unexpected, you can be prepared.

Firstly, you should know your audience. Are these people you work with or will it be new clients you’ve never met? By having a better idea of who you’ll be presenting to, you can plan your presentation more suitably.

Man with his Head in his Hands

To help get rid of some of the butterflies, introduce yourself to people as they arrive. You’ll quickly realise they’re all decent and friendly people and you don’t have anything to worry about.

Go through it with someone
Practice makes perfect – make sure you’ve had a few dry runs before you step into the room.

Ask a friend or colleague to go through it with you. But make these practice sessions as difficult as possible – let them be your worst audience by interrupting, looking bored or putting on distracting background music. If you can handle this, you can handle anything. Then get them to give you notes on both the content and your performance.

Have some crutches
Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. If things do go wrong, make sure you’ve got something to fall back on. This could be in the form of:

• Note cards for when you forget your lines,
• A simply-structured presentation so you know what’s coming next
• Back up versions online or in paper form in case the technology fails

Test the tech
When it comes to technology, make sure it’s working properly and you know how to use it.

This could be anything from checking the connections for the screen or projector, to make sure you know how to log-on on to video conferencing. Test it all at least an hour beforehand, so you can iron out any problems.

Someone Snapping a Pencil in Half

Speak slowly
Nerves can make us rush our words – but the more you rush, the more you lose your breath and start to falter.

If you find yourself babbling, take a deep breath, let it out and then take a drink of water. This will buy you time to get yourself together and slow down. If you’re still having problems with public speaking in general, being heard or conveying confidence, why not ask an actor for some tips?

Give yourself a break
While it’s good to have the end in sight, if you try to push through and complete a 2-hour presentation in one go you might end up putting too much pressure on yourself.

And your audience may get bored, which will hit your confidence further. Schedule in a few 5-minute breaks to give you a breather. If you’ve got a friend in the room, see if you can get some feedback from them during these in-between times.


Posted by Julie Tucker

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