business man nervous before a presentation

Presentation Skills: Tips for overcoming nerves

Like many things, the feeling of ‘nerves’ isn’t always the same and can range from slight adrenaline right through to sweating or being sick.

Though people experience nervousness as a physical issue (shaking hands, sweaty armpits, and knocking knees) it actually stems from a negative state of mind. For information on how to gain a successful mindset when speaking click here.

How to deal with presentation fear long term

The best way to overcome the symptoms is to turn the negative thoughts about presenting into positive helpful thoughts – a process we call “Taming Your Public Speaking Monkeys” I’ve written a whole book on the multi-award-winning concept and we focus on it in our “Mindset for Speaking Success” training. People unconsciously think that the nerves are helping, but the fear isn’t helping; in fact, it’s preventing you from doing what you need or want to do. Once you have cleared the negative thinking patterns (monkeys) away, you stop worrying and will have room for new, helpful thoughts.

When you feel more positive, your body language will express that too. And it stops the downward spiral because when you have better body language, it’s easier to feel confident!

How to stop public speaking nerves

There are a few presentation skills training exercises you can do to help reduce nerves.

  1. A simple way to feel calm, confident, and ready for anything that comes your way is to stand properly. We’ve made a training video to show you exactly how to adopt this ‘Presenter Stance’ – your stance should be feet parallel, a comfortable width apart and facing forwards. Your arms should be nice and relaxed by your side, and you should make a conscious effort to stand tall. You should feel grounded like you are rooted to the floor. This helps you look more confident, feel more confident and improves the ability to breathe properly making you calmer so if you feel nervous, aim to use this stance 90% or more of the time when you are presenting.
  2. Another useful exercise to build your confidence before presenting is to think back to a time when you felt really confident – it could be any situation at any stage of your life. Some people find it easier to feel confident in a sporting activity or doing a hobby they love. We want to store that feeling of confidence for later when you need to access it using an ‘anchor’. Here’s how to do that;
    1. Think about how you felt at that time when you were confident, what could you see and hear?
    2. When you’re feeling that confidence again, store it in your mind by ‘anchoring’ it.
    3. To create an anchor, gently press your thumb and middle finger together on your left hand whilst thinking and feeling confident.
    4. Before the feeling fades away, release your anchor (disconnect your finger and thumb)
    5. Repeat this a few times with other memories of confidence. If you struggle to think about a time when you were confident then use another positive emotion like feeling loved. You can do that by thinking about someone who loves or cares for you.
    6. Once you’ve created your anchor in advance, you should be able to use it in the future, any time you feel you need a confidence boost, press your thumb and middle finger together, and the positive feelings should return.

For further reading on how to increase your presenter confidence click here.

Other things you can do to combat unhelpful nerves is to be well-prepared and well-practised. A little preparation goes a long way. Always prepare an outline before going anywhere near PowerPoint, or better still, don’t use it at all! Being clear on the outline, story, or structure of your talk plays a huge role in feeling less nervous. In my second book ‘High-Performance Presentations” I take you step by step through the Simply Amazing Structure (SAS), a proven way to structure presentations – and any form of communication.

I could continue forever because so many other things will help you to reduce your nerves. You might be interested in further reading on:

Breathing correctly
Stop a pounding heart
Stop voice and hands shaking
How to relax before a presentation
Body language

If you know you want to improve your presentation skills but aren’t quite sure where to start, visit our page to help you choose the best next steps for you

Posted by Dee Clayton on 18 Feb 2020

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