Being nervous in presentations is probably the number one reason, people avoid doing them in the first place. In this post I am going to show you how not to be nervous during presentations, so you can, dare I say, enjoy them a little more. I am not going to tell you to envisage your audience naked. This is funny but it really doesn’t work.
Why do we feel nervous?
When we are doing a presentation, we are setting ourselves up as being different to everyone else. And by definition we do not want to be different, we want to fit in. Now there may be people who want to argue this point but for the majority of us we want to be part of the group.
We may also have had a bad experience in the past, maybe in childhood where we were presenting even if only a few lines in church or at a school event. I know lots of people who have privately shared their perceived horror stories that still affect them today. For many of us, being laughed at by school mates makes us wary of being in that situation today. I cannot take the experience away from you but I have attended many presentations and I have yet to see a presenter, no matter how bad being laughed at. We are grown ups now.
Why it is important to feel nervous?
This may seem like an odd sentence but feeling nervous is a sign we have adrenaline running through our veins.. To be good at anything we need adrenaline. An athelete will not perform well if they have no adrenaline. What we need to do is to put the adrenaline to good use. We need to turn the nerves into enthusiasm. Or at least make them look like enthusiasm.
Why it is important not to show nerves?
The audience will feel uncomfortable if you are nervous. No one likes to see someone struggling. I am sure you have been in presentations where someone is obviously struggling and you are inwardly willing them on. In fact you probably start to feel nervous for them. Your audience will not be against you either. They want you to do well and they want to enjoy the presentation.
How not to be nervous during presentations
Practice. This really is the best thing you can do to help calm the nerves before presentations. Being confident in knowing what you want to say is vital to the success of any presentation. Not being sure will only add to your nerves.
Get there early and meet and greet. Whilst I know this isn’t always possible, try to engage with your audience on a one to one basis, even if it is only a hello before you present. It will help you to psychologically feel you know your audience and you will therefore be less nervous. Being comfortable in your surroundings and your presentation space will also allay nerves and keep you more organised.
Deep breaths. A simple one but when we are nervous we do forget to breath. A few deep breaths before starting will do wonders.
Smile. If you smile, whether you feel like it or not, it will lift your mood. Go on try it. I always try to Smile before answering the phone. Why? Because calls often interrupt my workflow and thought processes and so I often feel niggled. Now I don’t want the caller to know that, so I smile. It automatically lifts my mood and gives an enthusiasm to the call and my voice.
Water. Dry mouths go hand in hand with nerves. The last thing you want is to not be able to talk. Always ensure you have a supply of water. It is fine to take a sip during a presentation. This can also give you a moment to collect yourself ready for the next part of the presentation.
Point out your failings. Now you probably think I am mad. If you have some challenge bring it up early in the presentation. Don’t let there be an elephant in the room. Let’s say you naturally go red when nervous and this happens to lots of people. Say ” Now you may notice that I am going red as I am speaking. Don’t panic, I am not overheating, it is just the nerves” This will bring a smile to your audience and it will make you and your audience feel more at ease. You wouldn’t walk in with a broken arm and not mention it, would you ?
Body language. If you stand, slumped, you will not only look more nervous but you will sound dull and uninteresting too. The same applies if you go overboard and try to look too confident. e.g sitting down with legs up hands behind head. You’ve got the picture. The audience wants a presenter not an egomaniac. Try to move around a little,it will give more interest to your audience and it will feel more natural to you and therefore allay those nerves.
Do not drink alcohol as a nerve settler. I have seen this go terribly wrong. You may feel more confident but slurred words do not make for a great presentation. Even one tipple can have disastrous results. Number one it can be smelt. Any alcohol on an empty, nervous stomach will have the same effect as several.
I do hope this has given you some ideas on how not to be nervous during presentations. I love to hear your presentation stories. Please feel free to put them in the comments below. Also do not be afraid to ask any questions you may have.