Overcoming Nerves about Presenting

We believe that speakers feel nervous because they want to do their best but they don’t believe they can. Usually the answer is in a better understanding of what to present and how to do it well. And with that, usually more practice and experience will overcome the nerves.

Every speaker is nervous about their presentation. If they weren’t they would probably seem less interested in their talks. A reasonable level of nervousness can produce a great performance. Many actors are nervous about their performance, but, through rehearsal and practice, they know they can succeed. 

Most people are nervous of presenting for just 2 reasons: they don’t know what to say, and they don’t know how to say it. But when the fundamentals of public speaking are explained to them and they’re given a chance to practice, the nerves disappear. More preparation and practice is usually the answer to overcoming nerves. 

For example when you learnt to drive you were probably quite nervous about driving a car because you didn’t know how to. But with instruction, help and practice you learnt. Think about how you drive now; confident and in full control, even in difficult situations. And remember that you learnt to drive by driving, not from a book. And so it is with speaking to a group; it’s just the same.

It’s a mistake to just focus on your nerves and not on your talk. If they are prepared to do the necessary preparation and practice in the right way, the nerves will eventually change to excitement (“how good can I be?”) rather than (“I can’t do this…”). This is a wonderful moment when you realise you can do it.

And now, let’s assume you have prepared well, and you have practiced your talk many times; you know it well. But you still have nerves. What then? Use your nerves to create a great performance. Practically, make sure you are well prepared; you know you have a good presentation; you have prepared it well and you have practiced. If you can, get into the venue before your talk and imagine yourself presenting to your audience. Creative imagery has a powerful effect on us. Have your notes to hand to help you keep on track. Make sure you’ve learnt your first couple of minutes by heart, so you can look at your audience. Breathe deeply, stand strong, look at your audience and smile. And now you are speaking! Well done! 

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