- Do you become over-anxious before or during a presentation?
- Do your palms get sweaty? Are you nauseous?
- Are your hands shaking uncontrollably?
- Does your mouth go dry?
- Would you be delighted if the ground could open up and swallow you whole?
If any of these ring true, you are far from alone. Over 75% of people worldwide suffer from some kind of anxiety about public speaking.
There’s actually a term for it, glossophobia: the fear of public speaking.
A certain amount of nerves isn’t unusual, but if they are overpowering you, then that can be a real problem.
As I often say, if you are overly nervous, you’re thinking of yourself, not of the audience. Your focus is on what you look like, how you might be perceived, and all the things that you’re doing wrong.
In this blog post, I want to guide you through a few simple techniques. They will help you shift the focus of your presentation where it matters: on your audience.
Tip 1: Practice makes perfect
Being prepared won’t solve everything, but it gives you something to fall back on when you’re stressed.
Don’t try to memorise your presentation. Instead, become intimately familiar with it.
Practice makes perfect so rehearse it beforehand. Record yourself presenting on your phone. This will have two consequences:
- the act of filming might make you nervous, so it’ll be good practice for the big day, and
- you can re-watch it and identify what you should change ahead of the presentation
If you’re particularly nervous about questions during or after your presentation, use this time wisely. Think of the toughest questions you’d really prefer not to be asked, and draft potential answers. You might not need to use these at all but making the time to think them through will ease your fears.
This preparation will help you focus on what you’re saying and how it’ll resonate with your audience.
Tip 2: Visualisation
It’s really easy to catastrophise and decide that everything will go wrong. Unfortunately, the more time you spend doing this, the more likely it is to become a reality.
So do the opposite instead!
I want you to visualise a positive and successful outcome for your presentation.
Imagine yourself sailing through your talk, the audience beaming and nodding appreciatively. Imagine the round of applause at the end, the wonderful feeling of relief and pride after you step off that stage (or turn off the camera).
Go on, try it, and let that positive mindset take over your presentation!
Tip 3: Breathing
When we’re nervous, we tend to breathe shallowly, which in turn makes us even more nervous!
It’s a vicious circle that you can break through this simple exercise:
- place your hands on your stomach and breathe deeply and slowly in through your nose. You’ll feel your belly expand out. Do this for 4 counts.
- hold your breath for 4 counts
- expel your breath through your mouth for 4 counts. You’ll feel your stomach contract back towards your spine.
Do this for five minutes.
Focusing completely on your breath will decrease your anxiety response.
Tip 4: Power poses
Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy famously introduced the world to the concept of Power Poses. You can discover it in more detail in her TED talk here.
The idea is to hold a pose, such as:
- standing with your hands on your hips and your feet apart (as illustrated above), or
- standing in a jumping jack position: legs apart, arms in the air in a V-shape.
Choose a pose and hold it for two minutes before a presentation.
The idea is that it will release endorphins (aka happy-making chemicals) and lower cortisol (your stress hormone) and increases testosterone (confidence, here we come!).
I swear by it and always do a power pose before a conference presentation to large audiences. Works every time.
Tip 5: Look Up
When you’re nervous, it’s incredibly tempting to look down and focus on your notes.
Here’s why it’s not a great idea:
- looking at the top of your head isn’t engaging for your audience
- hunching over is going to make you feel more nervous
Instead, look up as often as you can, just above the heads of your audience. They’ll feel and look more engaged, which in turn, will make you feel more confident.
If you are presenting online, this is even easier to do. Look at the camera of your computer or phone, rather than the faces on your screen. It’ll feel like you’re looking directly into their eyes.
These tips work whether you are presenting online or in-person. This is great news, as virtual presentations are here to stay.
Have you found yourself struggling with confidence more than usual since the lockdown began?
Presenting online certainly adds some new challenges to the mix.
This is why I’ve specifically designed a new online course, called Design & Deliver, to master the art of virtual presentations. From technical struggles, to mindset issues, to engaging an online audience, this series of 18 bitesize videos (and supporting material), will help you feel confident to deliver exceptional virtual presentations.
Design & Deliver will be launching soon, find out more here (as well as a 20% discount code).