Making a presentation can be nerve-wracking. Whether you’re pitching a potential client or giving a speech at a local event, getting up in front of others for public speaking can get your adrenaline pumping and induce feelings of anxiousness. You might worry that you’ll mess up and everyone will see. While this sweaty-palmed, heart-racing nervousness isn’t the most comfortable feeling, it helps to know that it is an ingrained reaction. Increased adrenaline helped our ancestors flee or fight in dangerous situations. It also helps to know that you can overcome presentation anxiety.
Nancy Duarte, a communication expert featured in Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company and many other publications, discusses some ways to conquer presentation anxiety.
Take time to properly prepare. To ensure that everything goes as smoothly as possible on presentation day, your first step is to prepare. Rehearse what you’re going to say. Envision the audience. Anticipate tough questions. Pretend you’re standing on stage or at the front of the room and invest some time practicing your material. Nerves are often triggered by surprise, and you’ll benefit by making your talk a more predictable event.
Visualize a great presentation. The brain can’t always distinguish between real experiences and imaged ones, so take advantage of that fact. Picture every minute of the presentation in great detail. Imagine when the meeting is turned over to you and you step up to introduce yourself. How will you feel? What will you say to greet your audience? What will the audience look like? If you thought you were well prepared, this technique will make you feel ultra-prepared. After you give your imagined presentation, you will feel like you have done it before and the real deal will be an encore.
Embrace uncertainty. Some things are just beyond your control. You might trip going up on stage. The microphone might not work. Your PowerPoint might not load. Rather than pretend you have total control over a situation, trust that you have done all you can to prepare and leave it at that. The chances of your worst fears coming true are slim. If you happen to goof up during your presentation, roll with it. You can’t control how the audience reacts, but you can steer them in the right direction by remaining cool and calm.
Learn to be okay with blank faces. Your audience won’t always nod their heads or chuckle at your jokes. Oftentimes, they’ll just sit there. Accept that groups of people, no matter the size, don’t always make sounds of agreement such as “uh-huh.” They’re not judging your presentation but likely trying to be polite and listen to what you have to say. Or, they might be in a world of their own. Don’t let anyone’s body language or blank face faze you. Just focus on what you rehearsed and keep going.
Whether you’re stepping into the boardroom or stepping up to the podium, use the tips above to overcome nervous feelings before your next big presentation.
Source: Nancy Duarte is a communication expert who has been featured in Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Wired, The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, The Economist, LA Times and on CNN. Her firm, Duarte, Inc., is the global leader behind some of the most influential visual messages in business and culture.