How to stop a pounding heart when presenting

Does this sound like you? You know your job well, you can communicate clearly in many situations, you lead a successful team BUT sometimes when it comes to presenting (virtually or face to face) in high-pressure situations you can lose all sense of control? Sometimes your presentations are fine but other times your heart just pounds so much you feel like it may jump out your chest (you may also suffer from shaky hands and voice when presenting or some other common public speaking speech anxiety symptoms.

Some people resort to Beta Blockers to slow their heart down (which I don’t recommend for the reasons in my blog on ‘Why drugs aren’t the answer!’). The best solution is to deal with the symptoms and uncover the cause of the pounding heart.

So, how can you prevent your racing heart from sabotaging your business presentations? There are 3 areas to focus on, mindset, body language and breathing/voice:


Our state of mind is impacted by the things we tell ourselves; we’ve coined these negative voices in your head ‘Public Speaking Monkeys® ‘. They cause you to think negatively about your upcoming presentation. Different people have different monkeys, some of the common things they tell you are ‘You’re stupid!’ and ‘You’re not good enough!’ or ‘You’re boring’.

It is important not to just ignore these voices but understand how they are trying to help you & then replace them with more encouraging ‘Helpful Monkeys’. This in turn will make you feel more relaxed and bring your heartrate back to normal or appropriately elevated.

How do these monkeys cause chaos?

Those negative monkeys cause an increase in your heart rate because you feel scared which produces too much adrenaline in the body and can then kick off the ‘downward spiral’ where one thing leads to another and the situation goes into free fall. You feel your heart rate increase, you begin to worry about coming across as anxious, and then you look worried and actually do come across as nervous – a self-fulfilling prophecy! You can read more on this downward spiral and how to correct it in these 2 books High-Performance Presentations and How To Tame Your Public Speaking Monkeys.

Virtual presenting and monkeys

We’ve worked with clients recently who used to pretend to get cut off of their own virtual call because they felt so out of control – not anymore! If you suffer from a racing heart when presenting on Zoom calls or in video meetings watch this video to find out why the monkeys can attack more in a virtual environment!

Body Language

Not everybody realises that your body language impacts how you think and feel and how you think and feel impacts your body language. Standing correctly with a good Presenter Stance where you are upright, shoulders are back and the head is raised gives you the best chance of having a good mindset which will come through in your breathing, heart rate and voice.

To help reduce your symptoms we have created a video series on body language, stance and hands and we have written a whole blog on the importance of good posture for public speaking which you can find here.

Similar techniques apply even when you are sitting down and speaking.

In our ‘present with confidence‘ training course, we also show participants where to look and where not to look when presenting, how to remain calm, come across with gravitas and much, much more.

Breathing and Voice

When your heart is pounding and you’re feeling nervous about presenting you are also likely to be breathing too quickly. Most adults in the western world actually are not breathing correctly, they are breathing from their upper chest, causing their shoulders to go up and down as they breathe, rather than using their diaphragm to breathe. This can cause even more issues when it comes to pressure situations as we feel we are running out of breath.

Exercise – are you breathing correctly?

  • Take a deep breath in, and a relaxed breath out.
  • Notice – did your shoulders go up towards your ears and back down?
  • If so, you have a dysfunctional breathing technique and you are shallow breathing – if you are breathing correctly your stomach should move out and in.

Learn how to breathe correctly – for more information and exercises see our don’t forget to breathe blog.

Once you have the correct breathing in place, your pounding heart will feel more relaxed, and now you can focus on getting rid of tension in your voice and speaking clearly and at the right volume. For more help, check out our blog on “How to Improve your Speaking Voice and Volume with the Help of Apps”. And if stuttering is an issue for information on how to stop saying “um” and “erm” in your presentations click here.

In addition to these 3 areas of mindset, body language and breathing/voice which we address in our “Present With Confidence’ Stage 1 training, we also work with participants to ensure their messages are clear and simple which contributes to a feeling of being calm, confident and in control.

And finally…Is your pounding heart inconsistent? 

You may not feel like your public speaking symptoms are typical – after all, you might present all the time and be OK most of the time. Perhaps it is only on some occasions you have this problem? But even so, something is making your heart pound and it is likely to be some sort of anxiety or stress. Don’t believe those people who say, “this is something you need to learn to live with”. We believe you can learn to understand the root cause of the issues and then learn how to present without your heart pounding through your chest and instead feeling calm and confident.

For more information on how to overcome nerves before a presentation click here.

Simply Amazing Training offers professional presentation skills coaching and public speaking coaching in the UK and across the globe virtually. And in person for companies in and around LondonDorsetKentLeicestershire and Hertfordshire.




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Dee Clayton

Posted by Dee Clayton on 9 Jan 2020

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