How to not be nervous for oral presentations?

In this guide, we will discuss ‘How to not be nervous for oral presentations’ and a few reasons why we tend to feel nervous when presenting in public. Also, we will talk about some of the techniques and strategies more in-depth and how you could implement them. However, adapt the information we have presented to your situation and try to come up with other techniques that will make you feel comfortable and confident.

How to not be nervous for oral presentations?

If you wonder ‘How to not be nervous for oral presentations?’, firstly, let us tell you that you are experiencing a very common situation. Here are some quick tips:

  • Practice. You may probably be familiar with ‘practice makes perfect’. Well, practising will help you gain confidence but the idea is not to obsess with it. Take time to practice, own your topic and get some feedback if you decide to do a mock presentation in front of friends or family.
  • Transform your nervousness into enthusiasm. Most people are not aware but feeling nervous and enthusiastic is virtually the same thing, but we tend to give each a positive or negative connotation. When you are feeling nervous try flipping the switch into enthusiasm.
  • Attend other presentations and observe the body language of the person who is presenting. Write down what you have seen and the behaviours you think could help you nail your presentation.
  • Use positive visualization. Visualize the end of your presentation and how well you did.
  • Practice deep breathing exercises, this will help you when you are feeling nervous to relax.

The fear of speaking in public is also known as ‘glossophobia’ and it is more common than you might think. However, you don’t have to give an oral presentation in front of hundreds to feel nervous, it could also be giving a presentation to staff members or a small group of people. But can we avoid this from happening? 

Well, there are certain strategies and techniques as the ones we have seen so far, that can help you manage your nerves when delivering a presentation. But consider that the more uncertain you are about something, the more nervous you will be so it is important to understand we can’t control the future and we can’t certainly control something that hasn’t happened (especially if we don’t know if it will).

Why do I feel nervous about oral presentations?

As indicated by John M. (2010) “Most congress speakers worry about being judged negatively by others. People don’t want to look stupid and don’t wish to fail to deliver the correct answers during ‘question time’ (which we spoke about in detail last time). Other reasons why people are nervous during oral presentations involve such things as fear of failure and fear of the unknown, forgetting what you have to say, not having enough to say in the allotted time, having too much to say in the allotted time, feeling inadequate (especially linguistically inadequate) and a general dislike of being ‘put under the microscope’.”

Your palms are sweaty, your stomach is queasy, your mind went blank and you feel paralyzed, not able to move a muscle or on the contrary, wanting to run as fast as you can away from it. Are you familiar with the feeling? Not pleasant at all but why? Simply because no one likes to be judged, criticized or evaluated in front of other people. 

We usually associate it with negative experiences, and we probably have a few we can recall that we consider the most ‘traumatic’. Moreover, the physical symptoms that come with can be endured with distress and constantly living with the feeling can be discouraging and frustrating.

Even the most experienced and most practised presenters get a bit nervous but they tend to use their nervous energy and use it to their advantage by communicating with enthusiasm and passion. However, as we have mentioned already, we acknowledge that being nervous from time to time is completely normal but when it starts to impact your life significantly, then, it is time to seek help.

Define your target audience and know your material

Knowing your audience before the presentation can help you feel more confident and prepare useful and interesting material for them. However, not knowing your topic or not preparing well enough can be a huge source of anxiety. Also, do some research on your audience needs and ensure the material goes hand in hand with the information you will present to them.

Another important aspect is to remember that you may not be able to cover everything there is to know about the topic because it could be too long and boring. However, consider selecting the most important aspects and supplement with additional reading material when possible.

Making your material interesting or memorable will depend on how well you organize the information and how you get to engage the audience to encourage their participation. Include occasional questions, which will not only serve the purpose of engaging them but also giving you a break from presenting, even for a few minutes.

How to not be nervous for oral presentations?

Practice, practice, practice

You may have seen people presenting and how they seem to read from their slides, just as it is. Other people may consider memorizing what they will say but it is not the most effective way of presenting. The idea is to sound as natural as possible, this will give the audience the feeling of having a conversation and will increase your confidence.

When presenting, you may organize the information in a way that it is easy for you to organize your ideas and easy for the audience to understand. If you feel like you need to memorize, try to limit it to your opening statement.

Recording or videotaping yourself while you deliver your presentation is a very good idea since you can watch yourself later and adjust or change things that may require it. Watch out for your tone of voice, how you speak, your speed, etc. Also, be mindful about your body language since it will reflect your audience how confident or nervous you are about the topic you are presenting.

How to not be nervous for oral presentations?

Finally, when you feel ready, try to practice in front of friends or relatives and ask them to give you some feedback about the presentation, your behaviour and the points covered. It could be useful to ask them to make questions so you can write them down and keep them in mind if they were to surface again during your presentation.

Why is this blog about How to not be nervous for oral presentations important?

As we have discussed, feeling nervous before speaking in public and more specifically, during oral presentations is completely normal. People can have an intense fear of being judged, criticized, ridiculed or humiliated but this is due to personal experiences or watching others have them. Also, let’s consider that uncertainty plays a very important role and how we need to think about how there are things we can’t control. However, being nervous most of the time or having anxiety affect your life significantly is not considered as normal.

Remember, even the most experienced people in their fields and even those that have been presenting for quite some time feel a bit nervous. This means there is no need to fight the feeling but to acknowledge it, accept it and develop techniques to cope with the nervousness. One of those techniques is to prepare your topic and cover the most important aspects. Another useful tip we mentioned is to organize your information and avoid memorizing but delivering the presentation as if it was a conversation and practice as much as you need but without obsessing about it.

Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about How to not be nervous for oral presentations

How do I get over my fear of oral presentations?

To get over your fear of oral presentations, you could follow these recommendations:

– Be prepared, research and know your topic.

– Get your information organized.

– Practice in front of friends or someone you trust and ask them for feedback.

– Challenge your thoughts by contrasting them with reality.

– Visualize your success.

– Do some breathing exercises. 

– Focus on the topic, not on your audience.

Why do I get nervous when giving presentations?

If you get nervous when giving presentations you could suffer from public speaking anxiety, which is also known as glossophobia. However, if you are not only nervous about giving a speech or presentation in public, you could have a social anxiety disorder which differs from just a situational fear of public speaking. 

Is it normal to be nervous before a presentation?

It is considered normal to be nervous before a presentation. A big or important presentation can be perceived as a potential threat even if it isn’t so it triggers the flight or fight response which makes you feel nervous. However, fighting the feeling will only make things worse. Start by accepting you are feeling nervous and seeing it as part of life but if it starts affecting your life significantly, consider looking for help.

Why are we afraid of public speaking?

We are afraid of public speaking for several reasons. One of the most common reasons is being afraid of saying something that might be a reason for feeling embarrassed. Another reason could be the fear of being humiliated or the fear of potentially forgetting something and freezing in front of an audience. If we have experienced any of the possible scenarios or we have seen someone else go through one of them then it is easier to associate it to negative experiences, which it is only natural to feel afraid of public speaking.

Do I have Glossophobia?

If you have glossophobia, you could experience the following symptoms:

– Dry mouth.

– Tense muscles.

– Nausea.

– Feeling of panic when faced with having to speak in public.

– Intense anxiety just at the thought of having to speak in front of other people.

References 

John M. (2010). Message in a body: controlling your nerves during an oral presentation. HSR proceedings in intensive care & cardiovascular anesthesia, 2(4), 303–305.

Mindtools.com: “Managing Presentation Nerves”

How to not be nervous for oral presentations?

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.