You’ve probably read 5 steps to an engaging presentation but are still having panic attacks as the event gets closer. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are more tips to help you out:
Relieving presentation stress
The best way to relieve anxiety is to accept that it is normal. Everybody gets nervous especially when it comes to public speaking. It’s actually not a bad thing – when we’re under pressure, our body releases hormones, including adrenaline, to help us cope. You can use this energy to your advantage. But be careful not to let it take over your performance. Nervous energy can also make you speak too fast or show fidgety movements. Some work through this by breathing deeply or walking and constantly moving, others meditate before the presentation. Try these out and find out what works best for you.
On the day itself, you can relieve your anxiety by doing the following:
- Come early – Watch other presentations before yours to get a feel of the audience. You can also use the time to test your AV equipment or do a dry run. Being there early will give you time to calm down and adjust to the setting.
- Look back on your preparations – Whenever anxiety creeps up on you, think of all the time and effort you’ve spent preparing. You’ve checked and double checked your script and slide presentation. You’ve practiced in front of the mirror so many times. You’ve made handouts, guides, and exercises. You know your material more than anyone! You’re ready.
- Use positive visualization – This involves creating positive mental images to stimulate your mind and increase confidence. Try imagining yourself delivering your material flawlessly, connecting with the audience, and answering questions with authority. You can even imagine receiving applause and a standing ovation at the end of your presentation. Remember, what we visualize will become our reality.
- Take deep breaths – Breathe from your chest to calm your nervous system. This will lower your blood pressure and send a message to your brain to relax.
When all else fails and you’re still nervous, remember this age-old tip: Imagine everyone naked. It just might work!
Public speaking anxiety tips, Alex Lyon
As mentioned, we have a tendency to talk too fast when we are nervous. This also happens when you’re conscious about your English. Rushing through your sentences will make it hard for the audience to understand you. So practice slowing down and enunciating your words fully. Pause at important points for emphasis. Make sure to project your voice well or use a microphone so that everyone in the room will hear you well.
Don’t depend on your slide presentation too much. The audience should pay more attention to you and what you’re saying. Have you ever been in a presentation where the speaker keeps asking the AV person to go back to a previous slide before they can continue to talk or explain something? It’s distracting. You can lose your audience’s attention this way. Instead, turn it into a conversation. Use personal stories. Do your best to engage your audience by making eye contact, talking to them directly or asking questions.
Ideally, presentations (not workshops or trainings) should be within 15-20 minutes. Keep it tight to accommodate limited attention spans. If your presentation is data-driven, make sure to summarize the main findings of your data in your talk. A detailed explanation of graphs, charts and tables may not be necessary unless it’s the kind of conference where it is expected (such as in a scientific symposium or sales conference). Include the graphs and charts in your handouts so that participants can study or refer to them later.
Make the most important points of your presentation memorable. You can do this by sharing an anecdote, using compelling visuals on your slides, or even making an acronym. Summarize your message in 15 words and share it towards the end of your talk.
What if you forget?
Losing one’s train of thought is one of the biggest fears an anxious public speaker can have. But it’s not as catastrophic as you think. There are several ways to handle the situation without making it a big issue. You can:
- Pause – Sometimes a short pause is all it takes to remember what you forgot. Some repeat the last sentence they’ve just said to refresh their memory. You can also take a sip of water to give you a bit of time and then pick up where you left off.
- Check your guide notes – Prepare an outline or summary of your presentation on an index card. Take a peek whenever you’re lost. Glancing at your slides can also remind you of what’s next.
- Make light of it – Joke about it, or ask the audience for help. Say “Where was I?” It’s an opportunity to engage with your audience as well.
Sometimes a mistake can endear you to the audience. It can make you more relatable. So just relax. Don’t pressure yourself to be perfect. Make the most of the experience and do your best. Stop worrying, you’ll do well!
Article updated December 16, 2020.
Sources: 20 world-class presentation experts share their top tips, Mark Fidelman, Forbes; 9 helpful tips to calm your nerves before speaking, Marcel Schwantes, Inc.; and How to prevent and recover from mind blanks, Olivia Mitchell, Speaking about presenting.com. Accessed January 9, 2020.
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