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How to overcome nerves and present like a pro
23 March 2015
For some people, preparing and delivering a presentation creates a positive boost in adrenaline and follows with a sense of relief. For many others, simply the idea of a presentation can cause anxiety and nervousness. While nerves are normal, overcoming the fear is an important skill to develop and nourish a strong and successful career.
The fear of public speaking is up there with dying, snakes and heights and while speaking in public might not be life-threatening, this fear reflects the severity of the nerves and panic that can set in when you have to present or speak publicly to clients or co-workers.
It’s natural to feel vulnerable when you stand in front of others, along with the added pressure of presenting to your superior or boss. Whether it is stage fright or a fear of failure, most people experience presentation or public speaking nerves at some stage in their career.
How can you overcome these nerves to ensure that you deliver a professional and engaging presentation? Here are some tips that can help you take control and calm your nerves:
When it comes to presenting, there is no substitute for preparation. Carefully researching and collating your material will ensure you know your topic and can deliver something of value to your audience. The better you know the material, the more confident you will be when presenting it.
Once you’ve prepared your presentation, practise it as much as you can. The more you rehearse, the more familiar you become with your words and presentation aids such as PowerPoints or handouts, which will help you execute the delivery more seamlessly.
If you have the time and resources, film yourself during one of your rehearsals. You can see where grammar or pronunciation errors are made and iron these out before you present. If possible, run through your presentation in the setting where it will be delivered, and take the opportunity to familiarise yourself with any equipment you will be using to avoid any technical glitches on the day.
Anxiety over presenting is natural, because presenting itself is not a natural activity. The adrenaline that begins to pump through your body creates shallow breathing. By practicing deep breathing you can give the brain the oxygen it needs to calm the rest of your body. Breathing techniques can also help settle a quivering voice and steady shaking hands.
Dressing for the situation and the audience will give you confidence in the way you look. This can also translate into overall confidence in your ability to speak in front of your audience. If you are presenting to business professionals wear smart and tailored clothes and pay attention to details, avoiding ladders in stockings, scuffed shoes or messy hair.
Controlling your nerves does not mean eliminating them – nerves are natural and can help to make your presentation more dynamic and energetic. Presenting is a skill, and just as you would work towards perfecting other professional skills, practice and training will help make presenting and public speaking easier.
Learning to present confidently and effectively is an important skill in business. While it can be nerve-wracking, there are strategies you can employ to calm your nerves and make a good impression, such as:
- Proper preparation
- Rehearsing your presentation
- Controlled breathing
- Getting your appearance right