Nervous? How to Calm Down Before a Presentation
Speaking in front of an audience may be a challenge to many, as it may make them nervous or induce anxiety. In fact, the term glossophobia was coined to describe the fear of speaking in public, and many experts believe that up to 73% of the world’s population is affected by this phobia!
The good news is, there are various ways you can use to calm your nerves before going on stage to give a speech or presentation.
However, while these ways may help in the short run, a good way to completely rid yourself of the jitters would be to get to the root cause of exactly why you get nervous or anxious every time you are about to give a presentation.
Why do We Get Nervous Before Presenting?
The National Social Anxiety Center states that the fear of public speaking is an even more common phobia than the fear of spiders, death or heights. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that roughly 73% of individuals have a fear of public speaking, so it may be a bit comforting to know that you aren’t alone in this.
Research has shown that the most common factor that contributes to this phobia is the fear of negative judgement from others. This would explain why sometimes, you may go in front of an audience and forget what you were going to talk about. This is often caused by the rising level of stress, which may sometimes shut down your brain’s frontal lobe that is partially in charge of retrieving information from your memory.
Many speculate that these nervous jitters may also be influenced biologically and psychologically.
Now that we’ve looked at what may make you nervous before a presentation, we can proceed to:
What NOT to Do Before Your Presentation
Right before you are scheduled to give your presentation, there are a few things you should avoid doing. These include:
Drinking any stimulants
This refers to drinks like coffee, which may make you sweat, make your hands shake or increase the rate of your heart beat. Sweating too much or visibly shaking may give your audience the idea that you are nervous, even when you aren’t.
Therefore, you should avoid caffeine and instead settle for a substitute such as tea, which will ensure you feel as relaxed and as calm as possible before your presentation.
Getting to the venue of your presentation early affords you some time to get a feel for the environment you will be presenting in.
Arriving 15 to 20 minutes earlier will give you the opportunity to stand where you will stand when presenting and visualize the audience in their seats.
Avoid arriving late because disheveled, late and nervous is not a way any one wants to start their presentation. Not only will starting late put off your audience but it may not give you time to lay out any materials you may have in a way that’ll make it easier for you to access them.
Do This Instead…
17 Ways to Help You Calm Down Before a Presentation
Below are some suggestions of the different ways that can help you remain calm during your presentation and reduce any nervous jitters that you may have.
Note how other speakers act during their presentations
Before your presentation, it may do you good to research and see what other speakers do when giving speeches or presentations.
This would be a great way to boost confidence while also taking note of:
- how often they pause
- how long they speak for
- where they place their hands during the presentation
These minor details will give you an idea of what to do when presenting.
Practice your presentation
Practicing your presentation in front of a family member, friend or any other trustworthy individual may help ensure that you are well prepared while also boosting your confidence.
This step is also important as it allows you to get feedback on what you may not be doing correctly or what you can improve upon.
This ensures that by the time your presentation comes around, you’ll be satisfied with how you will be presenting and are able to do so with complete confidence in yourself.
Joining a Toastmasters club gives you the practice you need.
Learn your audience
Knowing the people you will be presenting to allows you to familiarize yourself with what the audience may expect, with regard to your presentation.
The more familiar you are with your audience, the more confident you will feel when giving your presentation since you will be in position to customize that speech just for them.
Develop an outline for your presentation
Having an outline for your presentation provides you with a simple guide that you can follow when you feel a little bit anxious.
To develop a structure for your presentation, write down the order in which you would like to discuss every topic in your presentation.
This will make it easier for you to trace back to what you were talking about if you lose your place because you were feeling jittery or anxious.
Do not over exert yourself by setting unreasonable expectations
While it may be easy to accept nothing less than perfect from ourselves, setting reasonable expectations will keep you from being upset or feeling disappointed if you make a mistake while presenting.
Keeping in mind that no one will judge you for not giving a perfect presentation and everyone makes a mistake will also relieve some of the pressure, which may make it easy for you to calm down, thus allowing you to continue with your presentation without worry.
Try to be more enthusiastic
It is quite normal to feel both excited and nervous, especially before giving a presentation. Turning the nervous energy into enthusiasm would be a good way to psych yourself up.
Pro-Tip: Telling yourself that you feel excited, even when you don’t, may trick your brain into actually feeling excited; try it sometime.
Practice confident body language
Your body language may be the first thing the audience notices about you, even before you speak. Therefore, you should try to stand up straight with your shoulders back when giving your presentation.
Additionally, you can also try to smile and relax your facial muscles.
Pro-Tip: The more confident you look, the more confident you may feel. In this case, what you are portraying on the outside will influence how you feel inside so that there is congruence/harmony in you.
Exercise before your presentation
Exercising is a great way to get your blood flowing and reduce any nervous tension.
Additionally, exercise allows you to work through any anxiety or stress you may be feeling. That way, you get to the venue feeling calmer and refreshed.
Accept your fear
While we should never let fear get the better of us, it is important to acknowledge that it is a normal part of life.
Accepting your fear will not only take away its power but also help you build confidence in spite of it.
Talk with people
A small meet-and-greet with your audience before you begin presenting affords you the opportunity to make connections, which may alleviate any nervous jitters you have.
Additionally, it will give your audience the chance to know you, even if it’s just a few facts about yourself, which may encourage more support from them while you’re presenting.
Take deep breaths
Deep breathing is a good way to reduce anxiety and stress. It also helps regulate adrenalin, which is normally activated when an individual feels afraid.
Additionally, deep breaths help circulate oxygen within your brain, which will allow you to think more clearly.
Smiling when you’re feeling anxious or nervous helps release endorphins that make you feel more confident.
Additionally, smiling shows that you are excited and confident, which may help the audience be more open toward the message you will be conveying.
Don’t overthink if you experience a brain freeze
It’s completely normal to sometimes forget what you were going to say when giving a presentation.
While it may feel like a big deal when it happens, the probability that the audience noticed is next to nil and even if they do, they may just as quickly forget it.
So, instead of dwelling on it, you should get over the lapse in your memory and continue with your presentation in a professional manner. This is easier to do if you have brief notes to guide you on the next steps in your presentation.
Ensure you make eye contact
When giving a presentation, it is important that you make eye contact with your audience. You don’t have to make eye contact with everyone, but you should at least pick a few friendly faces to help engage your audience.
Eye contact also affords your audience the chance to show interest in what you’re talking about.
Pro-Tip: Refrain from staring off into space, staring at the floor or at your notes when presenting as it may portray that you are unsure of yourself or are feeling nervous.
Use your notes
Always feel free to use any short notes on your presentation as a guide to prevent you from going off topic.
Unless you are told not to use notes, you can also use them as a visual cue to help you when you are feeling anxious or are stuck on a particular point.
Try speaking slowly
Speaking slowly helps ensure your audience can hear you while also calming your nerves. Before your presentation, you should practice speaking slowly as you may end up speaking quickly if you are anxious or nervous.
I don’t mean gallons of water when I say this, just a few sips per drink will do. Anxiety may sometimes cause your mouth to be dry. Keeping a bottle of water near you during your presentation may allow you to stay hydrated throughout your presentation, thus preventing dry mouth.
Keep in mind though that as long as you are confident, well prepared and well versed in the topics you will be presenting, then you should not let your fear hold you back. With time, staying calm will become second nature to you as a speaker.