Coping With Presentation Nerves - Presentation Skills (2023)

See Also: Avoiding and Managing Stress

It is entirely natural to feel nervous before making a presentation.

Many seasoned teachers, lecturers and other presenters feel nervous beforehand despite having given hundreds of presentations. The same is true of actors and actresses, celebrities, politicians, preachers and other people working in the media or in the public eye.

Being nervous is not a problem or a weakness, you just need to channel your nervous energy wisely. On the other hand, being over-confident and not nervous could be a weakness!

The symptoms of nerves (or stage fright) can include "butterflies" or a queasy feeling in your stomach, sweaty palms, a dry throat and the panic that your mind has gone blank about your opening lines.

Fortunately, there are some tried and tested strategies and techniques to manage your nerves so that you can concentrate on delivering an effective and engaging presentation.

These techniques will not get rid of your nerves; instead they will help you to use your nervous energy to your advantage. When you are in a heightened state from the adrenaline that is being pumped around your body, you can use that energy to communicate enthusiastically, convincingly, and passionately. The key is to decrease your level of nervousness so you can focus your energy on these positive activities, not on trying to control your nerves.

Managing Presentation Nerves

Leading up to the presentation

Prepare

It is essential to always be well prepared and well-rehearsed in order to feel confident.

Do not fixate on the presentation delivery at the expense of good preparation.

Spend time preparing, good preparation, knowing your subject well, and knowing what you are going to say and how you are going to say it, will boost your confidence and help reduce your nerves.

Think of a presentation like an iceberg: what your audience sees - the delivery - is a small percentage of the whole. What goes on out of sight, the planning and preparation, should make up the bulk of the work.

Read our Presentation Skills pages for tips and advice on how to best prepare for your presentation, starting with: What is a Presentation?
(Video) How to deal with presentation stress and anxiety

Rehearse

Practice your presentation; rehearse to family, friends or just in front of a mirror. Listen to any feedback. Check your timings, speak slowly and think about the types of questions that your audience may have.

If possible visit the presentation venue before the event to see the room layout and check what facilities are available. This will help ensure that everything runs smoothly on the day and help you visualise giving your presentation, which can help reduce feelings of nervousness.

Keep Your Mind and Body Healthy

Nervousness can be heightened if you're not feeling 100%.

Avoid alcohol the night before and on the day of your presentation. Reduce or avoid your caffeine intake from coffee, tea and other sources.

Try to engage in some exercise the day before your presentation. This will not only release endorphins, which make you feel better, but exercise will also make it more likely that you'll sleep well and feel more refreshed on the day of your presentation. See our pages The Importance of Exercise and The Importance of Sleep for more information.

Eat healthy. If you're feeling nervous then you may not feel like eating. However eating something healthy, fruit and vegetables are always good choices, will make you feel better and give you the energy you need to get through presentation day.

(Video) Public Speaking Anxiety Tips

Immediately before the presentation

When you feel nervous immediately before a presentation, the following strategies and exercises should help you:

Practice Deep Breathing

Adrenalin causes your breathing to shallow. By deliberately breathing deeply, your brain will get the oxygen it needs and the slower pace will trick your body into believing you are calmer. This also helps with voice quivers, which can occur when your breathing is shallow and irregular.

Drink Water

Adrenalin can cause a dry mouth, which in turn leads to getting tongue-tied. Have a glass or bottle of water handy and take sips before you start your presentation and occasionally during your presentation, especially when you wish to pause or emphasize a point. Take care not to take large gulps of water.

Chew Gum

Chewing gum before a presentation may help you to feel more relaxed. Research has shown that the act of chewing can increase your alertness and help to reduce anxiety. It is usually best to get rid of the gum when you start your presentation.

Use Visualization Techniques

Imagine that you are delivering your presentation to an audience that is interested, enthused, smiling, and reacting positively. Cement this positive image in your mind and recall it just before you are ready to start.

Self-Massage

Press and massage your forehead to energize the front of the brain and speech centre.

Relaxation Exercises

Although you may not feel relaxed before you give your presentation relaxation, exercises can help. Try the following relaxation exercises, but do not continue with them if they cause any pain or discomfort although remember that you may use some muscles you have not exercised for a while and so feel a little stiff afterwards.

Quick Relaxation Exercises

  • Stand in an easy position with your feet one pace apart, knees 'unlocked' and not rigidly pushed back, spine straight, shoulders not tense, and head balanced. Try to keep your face muscles relaxed by not clenching your jaw or clamping your teeth together.
  • Now stretch SLOWLY upwards, aim to touch the ceiling but keep your feet flat on the floor. Then flop forward from the waist bending your knees slightly as you go. You are now hanging forward like a rag doll - your arms and head totally unsupported and relaxed.
  • Straighten up SLOWLY, almost vertebra by vertebra, as if you were puppet and a giant puppet master was pulling you up by the strings keeping your head until last, when you are standing in your original easy position.

Repeat this exercise three times.

(Video) How to reduce stress and fear before and during your next presentation

Alternatively you can relax in a chair:

  • Sit comfortably with your lower spine pressed into the back of the chair.
  • Raise your arms above your head and stretch as high as possible.
  • Release your arms to your sides and bend forwards with your legs stretched out and stretch your arms out far as possible.
  • Return to your starting position.

Repeat this exercise three times.

See our section: Relaxation Techniques for more information and ideas of how you can learn to relax effectively.

During the presentation

Many people find that once they are actually giving their presentation or speech they feel a lot better and more relaxed. But it's important to remember to:

Pause

Just before you start talking, pause, make eye contact, and smile. This last moment of peace is very relaxing and gives you time to adjust to being the centre of attention.

Smile

Smiling is a natural relaxant that sends positive chemical messages through your body. Smiling and maintaining eye contact also help you build rapport with your audience.

Slow Down

Speak more slowly than you would in a conversation, and leave longer pauses between sentences. This slower pace will calm you down, and it will also make you easier to hear, especially at the back of a large room.

Move Around

Move around a little during your presentation as this will expend some of your nervous energy. However, try not to pace backwards and forwards, or rock on your heels, as these activities can be distracting or irritating to your audience.

Stop Thinking About Yourself

Remember that the audience is there to get some information and that it is your job to put that information across to them. Try to put your nerves aside and think about communicating your message as effectively as possible.

After the event

It's important to focus on the positives of your presentation once you've finished. Experience is the single most effective way of overcoming presentation nerves and delivering better presentations in the future.

(Video) Presentation skills tips to help you prepare and calm your nerves. #presentation

Get feedback

When possible, ask members of your audience for constructive feedback on your presentation. Listen to what they say and focus on areas that need improvement. Try to see any negative points not as a measure of failure but as learning opportunities for future presentations. Our page on Giving and Receiving Feedback may help here.

Use reflective practice

Reflective practice is a useful technique to help you think about and analyse your experiences and can be used for many aspects of life. The use of reflective practice for a presentation can be particularly useful for helping to minimise feelings of nervousness for future presentations. See our page of Reflective Practice for more help and information.

Don't beat yourself up

Like most things in life, presentations are unlikely to be perfect and there are always ways you can improve. When you get feedback from others and reflect on your own performance, it is important that you understand this and give yourself a break. Think about the positives and what went well, and learn from any mistakes or elements that you feel unhappy with.

Treat yourself

Treat yourself to something that you'll enjoy. Perhaps a glass of wine, or a nice cake or just a relaxing soak in the bath. Something to make you feel a bit special and recognise your achievement.

Continue to:
Dealing with Presentation Questions
Stress and Stress Management

FAQs

Why do I get so nervous doing presentations? ›

Experiencing speech anxiety is normal. Nearly everyone gets nervous when they have to give a speech or a presentation, even experienced speakers. The speakers that look relaxed and confident have simply learned how to handle their anxiety and use it to enhance their performance.

How do I calm my nerves before a performance? ›

5 Ways to Beat Pre-performance Nerves
  1. Be prepared. You're less likely to freeze up if you're well prepared. ...
  2. Psych yourself up. Instead of dwelling on what could go wrong, rev up some positive energy. ...
  3. Learn ways to chill. ...
  4. Don't be afraid of the nervous feeling. ...
  5. Look after yourself.

How can I hide nervousness? ›

Here are some great ways to hide your nervous behavior so you can tackle any nerve-racking event in your life.
  1. Breathe. Being nervous can disrupt normal breathing. ...
  2. Don't Admit It. ...
  3. Speak Slowly. ...
  4. Relax Your Body. ...
  5. Maintain Eye Contact. ...
  6. Ask a Question. ...
  7. Be Yourself. ...
  8. Still Struggling?
19 Jun 2020

Is everyone nervous before a presentation? ›

Over the course of a 30-year career in PR, corporate communications, and coaching, Levine says, “almost everyone I've worked with has some version of feeling nervous before big presentations. It's the rare person who doesn't get nervous.

How can I be a good presenter? ›

10 tips for becoming a great presenter
  1. Know your topic well. ...
  2. Outline your presentation. ...
  3. Practice your presentation. ...
  4. Keep slides and visual aids simple. ...
  5. Keep an engaging pace and tone. ...
  6. Take a voice lesson. ...
  7. Eliminate filler words. ...
  8. Use eye contact and positive body language.

How do you overcome the fear of public speaking PPT? ›

  1. Practice relaxation exercises (deep breathing)
  2. Practice your speech.
  3. Know your topic and find it interesting.
  4. Use positive self-talk.
  5. Visualize success.
  6. Thank of the audience as on your side.
  7. Chanel nervous energy into your presenation.

How can you tell if your nervous? ›

Signs of Being Nervous
  1. Pacing. Pacing is a very common sign of being nervous. ...
  2. Fidgeting. Fidgeting is small movements made by the body, particularly the hands and feet, in times of nervousness. ...
  3. Swaying or Rocking. ...
  4. Leaning. ...
  5. Freezing. ...
  6. Cracking Knuckles. ...
  7. Crossed Arms. ...
  8. Picking at or Biting Nails.
27 Apr 2020

How do you master a presentation? ›

Tips to master presentations
  1. Preparation is key. ...
  2. Practice. ...
  3. Smile and make eye contact. ...
  4. If you have slides, don't read off them. ...
  5. Wear a watch, or make sure you can see a clock. ...
  6. Imagine you're in the audience. ...
  7. Keep your slideshow concise and even. ...
  8. Don't rush it.
27 Jan 2017

What are the basic presentation skills? ›

Presentation Skills: 15 tips for effective presentations
  • Not every tip will lead to a successful presentation. ...
  • Tip 1: Maintain eye contact while presenting and smile. ...
  • Tip 2: Use of gestures and facial expressions. ...
  • Tip 3: Avoid distractions. ...
  • Tip 4: Be prepared: Practice makes perfect. ...
  • Tip 5: Be confident.
15 Apr 2021

How can I be a better speaker and presenter? ›

To become a better speaker, use the following strategies:
  1. Plan appropriately.
  2. Practice.
  3. Engage with your audience.
  4. Pay attention to body language.
  5. Think positively.
  6. Cope with your nerves.
  7. Watch recordings of your speeches.

How do I stop my voice from shaking when presenting? ›

You can easily eliminate a shaking or cracking voice by slowing your speaking rate and gaining control of your breathing rate. Focus on someone comforting in the audience. Intentionally slow your speech, inhale, and lower the pitch of your voice as you continue.

How do you overcome the fear of public speaking PPT? ›

  1. Practice relaxation exercises (deep breathing)
  2. Practice your speech.
  3. Know your topic and find it interesting.
  4. Use positive self-talk.
  5. Visualize success.
  6. Thank of the audience as on your side.
  7. Chanel nervous energy into your presenation.

What is a recommended way to lessen nervousness during the first minutes of a presentation? ›

6. Calm Yourself From the Inside
  • Practice deep breathing. ...
  • Drink water. ...
  • Smile. ...
  • Use visualization techniques . ...
  • Press and massage your forehead to energize the front of the brain and speech center.
  • Just before you start talking, pause, make eye contact, and smile.

Which of the following is likely to help you deal with nervousness in your speeches? ›

Which of the following is likely to help you deal with nervousness in your speeches? Visualize yourself giving a strong speech, focus on communicating rather than being nervous, and be thoroughly prepared.

Why do I always feel nervous and shaky? ›

The stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol flood your system. Your muscles tense as all of this happens, then they release as the stressor fades, giving you the shakes. Anxiety shaking usually lasts until the stress response ends, which can be a few seconds or a few minutes.

How do you not get emotional during a speech? ›

How to Give a Speech Without Crying? 10 great tips
  1. #1 Breathe Deep.
  2. #2 How to Give a Speech Without Crying Using Humor.
  3. #3 Acknowledge Your Emotions.
  4. #4 Pause for Reflection and Composure.
  5. #5 Focus on Your Notes.
  6. #6 Focus on the Mundane.
  7. #7 Take a Drink of Water.
  8. #8 Practice, Practice, Practice!
9 Jan 2019

How can I overcome my fear of speaking English? ›

How to overcome your fear of speaking English for business
  1. Identify your fears. ...
  2. Practice privately first. ...
  3. Find an informal language exchange. ...
  4. Join a language learning community. ...
  5. Get plenty of input in English. ...
  6. Speak slowly and smile. ...
  7. Forget perfection. ...
  8. Stay calm.
14 Apr 2021

What are the 7 elements of public speaking? ›

7 Elements of Public Speaking
  • Speaker. The speaker is the person giving the speech or rather the genesis of the communication process. ...
  • Message. The message is the information you want your audience to get from your public speech. ...
  • Audience. ...
  • Channel/Medium. ...
  • Interference. ...
  • Feedback. ...
  • Situation.
7 Jul 2021

How do you lead a stress free presentation? ›

13 Ways to Live a Stress Free Life
  1. Stop Overanalyzing Situations That Haven't Happened. ...
  2. Don't Take on Other People's Problems. ...
  3. Get Present in the Moment. ...
  4. Focus on What You Have, Not What You Don't. ...
  5. Follow a Steady Routine. ...
  6. Take a Good Self-Care. ...
  7. Stop Surrounding Yourself With People Who Don't Make You Happy.
26 Sept 2022

What should you do before a presentation? ›

How to prepare for a presentation
  1. Outline your presentation. ...
  2. Practice your presentation ahead of time. ...
  3. Read and revise your presentation. ...
  4. Write with your audience in mind. ...
  5. Take cues from professional speakers. ...
  6. Arrive early. ...
  7. Practice your hand gestures. ...
  8. Take some deep breaths.

What are the five common reasons for speakers nervousness? ›

What are the five common reasons for speakers' nervousness? Fear of being stared at, fear of failure or rejection, fear of the unknown, a traumatic experience in the past, and social anxiety.

How can I be a good speaker? ›

To become a better speaker, use the following strategies:
  1. Plan appropriately.
  2. Practice.
  3. Engage with your audience.
  4. Pay attention to body language.
  5. Think positively.
  6. Cope with your nerves.
  7. Watch recordings of your speeches.

Videos

1. Dealing with Presentation Anxiety
(Deborah Grayson Riegel)
2. Be a More Confident Public Speaker
(watchwellcast)
3. Controlling Nerves Before a Presentation - Simple Steps
(Rule The Room)
4. How To Deal With Anxiety: Oral Presentations
(Study With Jess)
5. Public Speaking Anxiety Tips: 6 Mindset Tips
(Communication Coach Alexander Lyon)
6. Overcome Speech Anxiety INSTANTLY!
(Improve Your Voice)
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