Presentation Skills Tips for Nervous Presenters

If you get nervous before giving a presentation, you are not alone.  Most people will experience ‘performance nerves’, which is a sign that something important is about to happen which causes adrenaline.

The trick is in managing your attitude so that your nerves are channelled into performance ‘energy’, to get you in the right state (and not a right state). I have created a simple ABC to help you before giving a presentation, based on some of the ideas I use with clients to help them to convert nerves into excitement:

1. Accept the sensations of adrenaline

When we are emotionally aroused we release adrenaline.  People who give presentations without being emotionally aroused are usually terrible presenters – as you will know if you have ever sat through a ‘confident’ but dull presentation.  We need energy and arousal to present well. The problem comes from our interpretation of what that adrenaline ‘means’.

When you are doing anything exciting – going to the airport for a holiday, meeting a loved one you haven’t seen for a long time, going on a date (and if the date goes really well the adrenaline will really peak later on) – you will get the same surge of adrenaline that you get when you present.  The difference is that you accept this adrenaline without interpreting it or giving it any negative meaning.

The raised heart beat, the tingling sensation in your chest which spreads throughout your body, the feeling of energy that makes you ‘buzz’ and feel physically charged, the slightly sweaty palms, the colour in your face… all of these things mean you have adrenaline – and that is all.  You are not going to die through it, you will not have a heart attack, and when you are excited you just accept these feelings.

So how come when you are about to give a presentation, if you feel ‘nervous’, you decide these same sensations are scary.  IT IS JUST ADRENALINE.  The key is to say to yourself “Here comes the adrenaline rush, now what will I get first? Sweaty palms? Faster, louder heart beat? Colour to my face? All three together?” and just notice what happens.  Don’t let it scare you.  Just notice your physical reaction, accept it and start your presentation.  ‘Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway’ becomes ‘Feel the Adrenaline and Do It Anyway’.

It takes a bit of practice – and may feel a bit uncomfortable the first time – but you will notice that once adrenaline stops being something you fear, so does giving presentations.

2. Be Prepared

There is a saying in presenting that “the best way to sound like you know your stuff is… to know your stuff.”  The most crucial part of your presentation to know is your Opener – your first words – as this is when your adrenaline will peak and this is when you need to be strongest in your delivery and confident in what you are saying.

Obviously, you need to have a good presentation ready and to have learnt it so you know it well, but the key to converting nerves into excitement is to have a well-rehearsed opening statement so you can start strong.

One other quick point about preparing is that you can also prepare physically by deep breathing to relax your face and voice; and this also takes the ‘edge’ off your adrenaline as you are practicing your acceptance of it.

3. Challenge your negative thoughts

As Henry Ford put it “Whether You Think You Can or Think You Can’t, You’re Right”.  Notice what you are telling yourself about this opportunity to speak.  Is it positive?  Does it put you into a resourceful and confident frame of mind?  Chances are, if you are nervous, you will be telling yourself all the reasons you wish you didn’t have to do it.

So reverse your thinking.  Here is a simple 3-step process:

i) Identify specifically what you are telling yourself about this presentation?

ii) For every negative thought, find a positive thought that could equally be true (what would your biggest supporter tell you about this?)

iii) Every time you catch yourself returning to the negative thought, remind yourself of the positive (equally true) thought and focus on this instead.

So next time you are asked to give a presentation, practice your ABC (Accept adrenaline sensations, Be well prepared, Challenge negative thinking).  Because, why shouldn’t presenting be as exciting as all the other things that give you an adrenaline rush!

Like more help from Caroline?

Let me know how I can help you with your next presentation by getting in touch with me here.

I have helped many people, who were once nervous and rambling to become confident and engaging public speakers.  Giving presentations, like driving lessons, is a skill you learn so you can get somewhere… and with my help you will get there in no time.