How not to be nervous while giving a presentation? (Tips)

In this guide, we will discuss “How not to be nervous while giving a presentation”, why do we get nervous when presenting, common fears and thoughts associated with presentation anxiety, signs and symptoms of being nervous or anxious and a few tips on how to overcome your presentation anxiety.

How not to be nervous while giving a presentation?

If you wonder, ‘How not to be nervous while giving a presentation?’ let me tell you that we all have been there, looking for ways to cope with nervousness and anxiety while delivering a public speech or presenting in front of an audience. However, it is completely normal.

Here are some quick tips on how to manage your public speaking nerves and present with confidence:

  • Practice and practice some more. 
  • Transform Nervous Energy Into Enthusiasm. 
  • Attend Other people’s speeches and write down what you see works for them.
  • Arrive Early.
  • Become familiar with your surroundings.
  • Use Positive Visualization.
  • Practice deep breathing exercises.

We know how daunting presenting in public might be and even the most experienced people feel nervous when they have to present a new topic, to a new audience or an audience that already knows you well. We all have scenarios or situations that may make us feel more or less confident. 

Public speaking doesn’t have to become an overwhelming and terrifying experience. However, if you have an anxiety disorder, public speaking will add more to the situation making it worse. If you do have an anxiety disorder or you suspect you may have one, it is recommended to seek professional advice and guidance.

Why do we get nervous when presenting?

There are many reasons why you could get nervous while presenting in front of an audience or when you are in front of people, whether you know them or not. Perhaps just the thought of having to speak in public can spike your anxiety. The truth is we fear the unknown because we are not in control of the situation. 

As a result, we start to think about the future and imagine the outcome of the situation as far worse than anything that could or reasonably happen. For instance, we may think people will make fun of us if we make a mistake, the keyword here being ‘will’. This is not necessarily true and this doesn’t happen in every situation we make a mistake. However, our mindsets the story in our head about the worst outcome possible.

In contrast, we could also talk about our anxiety about the known. This is based on previous experiences, for instance, if you have had a recent presentation that didn’t turn out to be as successful as you may have hoped for and all you heard was negative comments then you will take this fear to your next presentation, which ultimately will make you feel very anxious.

As speaker trainer Deborah Grayson explains, “when we start to believe that our past experience predicts the next one we feel doomed before we’ve even begun.”

Other common fears 

Everyone has a different meaning, what you fear may not be someone else’s fear under the same situation. For instance, you may fear:

  • Not practising enough or sounding like you don’t know what you are talking about.
  • ‘What if I forget what I am saying or if my mind goes blank?’
  • Practising too much and sounding stiff, stilted or boring.
  • Not knowing what to expect from the audience.
  • Having high or unrealistic expectations.
  • The audience won’t like you.
  • Doing something to embarrass yourself.
  • Not making any sense.
  • Having to ask questions where you don’t know the answer.
  • That people will know or notice you are terrified, nervous or anxious.

How does public speaking anxiety feel like?

Here are some of the signs and symptoms you may get to experience when you are anxious or nervous when presenting in front of other people:

  • A pounding heart
  • Shaking hands and legs.
  • Sweaty palms, armpit, forehead, etc.
  • Facial tics and twitches.
  • Nervous smile.
  • A quivering or shaky voice.
  • Flushed/pale face.
  • Nausea.
  • Upset stomach.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Racing thoughts.
How not to be nervous while giving a presentation? (Tips)

Feeling excited when presenting

Bare with us for a minute, we know this might sound crazy but let’s try to do a simple exercise to illustrate our point. Close your eyes for a minute and imagine you have found a bag full of money while you were walking down the street. How does this make you feel? If we think about it you will notice that most of the physical signs and symptoms that we described for anxiety are present as you feel excited for having found this bag.

You could also think about that one phone call you received with great news about something you were expecting to happen or a nice surprise, what happened then? Remember how you felt? Well, again, we could see some similarities between feeling excited and anxious.

The reason is that our bodies have similar physiological responses to the excitement and fear even if we perceive them as opposites, the difference is what we make of them, how we label one as positive and the other one as negative (i.e. fear, dread, doom).

Consequently, one useful technique to overcome public speaking fears is to change the label ‘scare’ for the one that says ‘excited’. It is not as simple as flipping a switch, we know but with practice, it is possible to do it naturally. It is also helpful to tell yourself how excited and thrilled you are for this presentation. However, the idea isn’t to hide or fight how you are feeling but to make the adrenaline rush to work in your favour.

Other useful tips

Imagery is a really powerful and useful technique in this type of situation so try closing your eyes and imagine you are delivering your presentation, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Start by writing them down. You may think your audience is judging your every move, every word but in reality, they are not. Instead of seeing them as ‘judges’, think about them as friends, colleagues or familiar people.

Needless to say, if you are delivering the presentation and people are there to listen, it is because the information you will provide is valuable and is information they need, so it is important to focus on what you can do for them instead of what they will do to you.

Finally, if you have prepared your speech, you will feel that you own the presentation and will gain the confidence you need to deliver it. However, one of the most feared situations, as we have discussed, is answering questions and not having the answers. It is OK if you don’t know the answer to a couple of questions, no need to freak out, you can simply say ‘That is a very good question and I don’t have the answer right now but I will look into it and answer I will get back to you’.

How not to be nervous while giving a presentation? (Tips)

Why is this blog about How not to be nervous while giving a presentation important?

As we have discussed throughout the ‘How not to be nervous while giving a presentation’, it is a pretty common question and most people tend to ask themselves how to avoid or stop the nerves when presenting. However, as we indicated, there is no need to fight the feeling but change the perception from fear (which represents dread and impending doom) to the excitement.

Moreover, we discussed why we tend to feel nervous and some of the signs/symptoms that you can easily identify in yourself. This all comes from the fact that we fear the unknown or we fear that what happened during previous experiences may happen again. Remain positive, excited, thrilled and remember your audience is not there to judge you but to listen to the valuable information you have to share with them.

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

FAQs: How not to be nervous while giving a presentation

Why do I get nervous during presentations?

Getting nervous during presentations is normal. This is also known as public speaking anxiety or glossophobia, more common than you may think. However, some people may only feel nervous about giving a public speech or a presentation but if you have a generalized anxiety disorder or social anxiety disorder then it may impact your life significantly, this is why it is recommended to look out for professional advice.

How do you stop anxiety when presenting?

You may not stop entirely the feeling of anxiety when presenting but you can reduce it considerably if:
– You know your topic and you have done thorough research on the matter.
– The information is organized in a way it is easy to present and understand.
– You have practised, and then practised some more.
– Challenge specific worries and contrast them with reality.
– Do some deep breathing exercises.
– Try to focus on your material instead of your audience.
– Don’t be afraid if there is a moment of awkward silence.

Is it normal to be nervous before a presentation?

It is completely normal to be nervous before a presentation. Our brain sends signals throughout our body to prepare to fight or flight to protect yourself from a potentially dangerous situation. However, it is important to understand why this happens and what is going on in our body. This is why we have to embrace nervousness instead of fighting or resisting it.

What to drink to calm nerves?

The 7 best drinks to calm your nerves are:
– Valerian root tea
– Anti-anxiety smoothie
– Oat straw drink
– Fresh fruit and vegetable juice
– Water
– Tart cherry juice
– Green tea

How can I be confident in a presentation?

If you want to be confident in a presentation, start by believing it. Also, watch out for your body language since it may tell more about you than words. For instance, make sure to make eye contact, keep an open posture, and use gestures to emphasize your message. If you want to sound confident, try to eliminate filler words, take time to pause before important messages and vary your pace.

References 

Kim, L. (2014, Oct.) 15 Ways to Calm Your Nerves Before a Big Presentation. Retrieved from inc.com.

How not to be nervous while giving a presentation? (Tips)

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.