How to quiet your nerves before a big presentation

How much should you prepare—and what steps can help you avoid gaffes that will bring your performance to a screeching halt? Try these eight steps.

How to calm your nerves before a presentation

Public speaking can reduce even the strongest, most confident person to a bundle of nerves.

There’s no way around presentation jitters, but here are eight ways to tamp down the nerves:

1. Always prepare.

Even if you’re confident speaking off the cuff, it’s wise to prepare–over and over and over again.

Take ownership over your speech, and introduce vivid anecdotes and examples to illustrate your points. Don’t just let it fly; prepare fastidiously before your big day arrives.

2. Tidy up your slides, and don’t lean too heavily on them.

If you’re nervous, and not entirely confident with the subject matter, you might feel compelled to read your slides aloud. Don’t do that.

Reading slides aloud will turn off the audience, and they’ll quickly become restless. This will make you increasingly anxious.

Restrict the amount to text on your slides to a few words or ideas so that you do not become reliant on them. Use them to support what you have to say.

3. Troubleshoot your equipment.

If you are already battling nerves, the last thing you need are technical difficulties.

Fiddling with a USB stick and praying that it will work on the event laptop will do you few favors.

Arrive at the venue early, before the audience arrives, and test all the equipment you’ll be using.

4. Don’t make excuses.

Don’t open by saying something like “Excuse me if I seem nervous.”

There really is no benefit to advertising your anxiety in this situation. Nerves are actually seldom visible to an audience. Telling them that you are nervous sounds like an excuse and does not create the strong opening impression you should be shooting for.

5. Have confidence.

There’s a reason you were asked to present. Stand up straight, be confident, and remind yourself that you are well-qualified to speak on this subject matter.

6. Don’t try to be perfect.

Striving for perfection is not realistic. Perfect presentations don’t exist.

Everyone makes mistakes in presentations, and most gaffes go completely unnoticed. Don’t dwell on mistakes. Move on, and focus on delivering your key points.

7. Mind your mental well-being.

Before your big moment on stage, relax your mind. Stretch, pray, meditate or go for a walk.

Don’t allow stress to turn your presentation into a negative experience. Embrace the nerves, but don’t let them overwhelm you.

Even simple breathing exercises and shoulder rolls can help.

8. Take time to reflect.

Even if you feel your presentation didn’t go well, reflect on your performance. What adjustments should you make next time? What did go well? How could you have engaged the audience a bit more?

If you can, ask the audience for feedback. Reflecting on your performance can help you feel less nervous and more prepared the next time around.

What are your tricks to tamp down nerves when giving a presentation, Ragan/PR Daily readers?

Adam Fisher is the content editor for Media First. A version of this article originally appeared on the Media First blog.

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