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How to not be nervous for a presentation — 13 tips that work (really!)

February 21, 2022 - 9 min read

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Why do I get nervous before presenting?

How to cope with nerves before, after, and during a presentation

The bottom line

If you feel nervous or scared about talking to someone new, giving a speech, or being on stage, rest assured; you’re not alone. 

Experiencing symptoms of performance anxiety from time to time is perfectly normal. In fact, people often fear public speaking. But the more you’re immersed in these types of situations, the more comfortable you’ll become

Discover techniques to help calm your nerves and show others your unique, professional self in this helpful guide. 

Why do I get nervous before presenting?

Man Speaking Through A Microphone In Dark Conference Hall-1

Based on data from the National Social Anxiety Center, being nervous about a presentation, or the fear of public speaking is the most common phobia. The official term for this fear is known as glossophobia, but you may call it stage fright.

These feelings typically arise from the perception that when you're in front of a group of people, they'll judge you. The brain’s frontal lobe aids in memory, and when we’re stressed, increased stress hormones temporarily shut that region down. This is what causes us to freeze up and stop talking. 

There’s nothing wrong with being nervous — the trick is to manage those feelings and learn to overcome them. 

BetterUp is here to help you do that. Mental fitness plays a big role in our behavior and attitudes and impacts our performance. BetterUp professionals use scientific techniques to help you shift your thinking from reactive to proactive. With their help, you can use your fears as a catalyst for growth and learning — including giving a great presentation. 

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How to cope with nerves before, after, and during a presentation

Below are tips to help you handle your nerves before, during, and after giving a presentation. 

Before the presentation:

Student girl preparing for presentation writing notes in her computer at home-how-to-not-be-nervous-for-a-presentation

1. Know your topic

The better you understand your subject matter, the more confident you’ll feel. You can answer questions right away and won’t have to rely on your notes. 

2. Be organized

Take time to thoroughly plan each aspect of your presentation. Often, that means designing PowerPoint slides, or other visual aids like videos. Clarify with the organizer what format and technology you will be using. If it will be virtual, get your background and room organized, too. This ensures that the presentation will go smoothly and reduce your stress. 

3. Practice, practice, practice

Whether you’re rehearsing in front of a mirror, a family member, or a pet, you can never practice enough. Ask for feedback about your body language, eye contact, and how loudly you project your voice.  If you will be giving the presentation on a video conference, record it on the video conference platform so that you can see how you look and sound.

4. Visualize your success

The more often you fill your mind with positive thoughts, the more automatic they will be. Positive self-talk can make a big difference to your confidence. Run through the presentation — successfully — in your head. 

During the presentation:

Businesswoman speaking from a podium to an audience in a conference-how-to-not-be-nervous-for-a-presentation

5. Focus on your material, not the audience

Your audience is there for your presentation — not to assess you. They’ll be looking at your colorful slides and listening to what you’re saying. Stop thinking about if they’re enjoying the presentation and deliver it how you practiced.

6. Don't fear silence

If your mind suddenly goes blank, that’s okay. It may seem like an eternity to you as you try to figure out what to say next, but it’s only a few seconds at most. 

7. Speak slowly

Slow down. Presentation anxiety makes it likely you’ll speak faster than you planned. Audience members will be thankful since they can understand you, and drawing out your speech will give you time to calm down.

8. Take deep breaths and drink water

Breathing delivers oxygen to your brain, allowing you to think more clearly. Drinking water ups your energy, and also gives you a moment to pause. 

9. Smile

Smiling is a simple yet effective way to soothe your nerves. Doing so releases endorphins, helping you physically feel more confident. And a friendly face will make the audience more open to what you’re saying. 

10. Remember the three "audience truths"

These include: 1) for the duration of the presentation, the audience believes you’re the expert, 2) they’re on your side, and 3) they don’t know when you make a mistake. 

After the presentation:

Businessman giving a talk to a group at a convention center lunch-how-to-not-be-nervous-for-a-presentation

11. Recognize your success

Giving a presentation is something worth being proud of — celebrate it! In addition to family, friends, and coworkers, you deserve a high five from yourself, too.

12. Collect feedback

Feedback is a wonderful gift if you use it as a tool to help you do even better next time. Ask some of your audience members what they liked and what they didn’t. Remember, you can learn a lot from your mistakes

13. Don't beat yourself up

You did the best you could, and that’s all anyone — including you — can ask for. 

The bottom line

Overcoming the fear of speaking engagements or any phobia takes time. Acknowledging this hurdle is the first step to making a change.

BetterUp is a human transformation company. We seek to empower others and assist them as they work through their worries and fears, and achieve their goals. Personal growth and professional development is a process. 

We won’t sugarcoat it — it’s hard to change our minds and habits. But if you’re willing to put in the effort, we’re here to guide you.

For the next time you give a presentation, here are three quotes to give you one last push of inspiration:

“You can speak well if your tongue can deliver the message of your heart.”

John Ford

“It’s what you practice in private that you will be rewarded for in public.”

Tony Robbins

“The worst speech you’ll ever give will be far better than the one you never give.” 

Fred Miller

 

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Published February 21, 2022

Shonna Waters, PhD

Vice President of Alliance Solutions

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