Still nervous? Here are more tips for an awesome presentation

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You’ve probably read 5 steps to an engaging presentation but are still anxious about presenting to a group.

Don’t worry, we’ve got you! Here are more tips to help you out:

Relieving presentation anxiety

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 (a hormone that boosts energy) to help us cope. This can fuel greater physical and mental alertness. However, too much adrenaline can take over. It can make us speak too fast, have a higher voice pitch, or show fidgety movements. If this happens to you, you can work through it by breathing deeply, walking, or making small movements (like shaking your hands, for example). Some find it helpful to meditate before a presentation. Try these out and find out what works best for you.

On the day of the presentation itself, you can relieve your anxiety by doing the following:

  • Come early – Watch other presentations to get a feel of the audience. You can also use the time to test your audio-visual equipment or do a dry run. Take time to adjust to the environment.
  • Look back on your preparations – 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 so many times. All your handouts, guides, and exercises are printed. You know your material more than anyone! You’re ready.
  • Use positive visualization – Positive mental images can stimulate your mind and increase confidence. Imagine yourself delivering your material flawlessly, connecting with the audience, and answering questions with authority. Imagine the applause, even 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.

If all else fails and you’re still nervous, remember this age-old tip: Imagine everyone naked. It just might work!

Delivery tips

As mentioned, we tend to talk too fast when nervous. This can also happen when you’re worried about your English. Talking too fast will make it hard for the audience to understand you. To prevent this, practice enunciating your words fully. Pause at important points for emphasis. Don’t forget to breathe! Make sure to project your voice well, or use a microphone so that everyone in the room will hear you clearly.

Don’t depend on your slide presentation too much. The audience should pay more attention to you. Have you ever been to a presentation where the speaker kept asking their assistant to go back to a slide? It’s annoying! You could lose the attention of your audience this way. Instead, engage your audience by making eye contact, talking to them directly, and asking questions. Use personal stories. Turn your presentation into a conversation.

Message tips

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 in your talk. A detailed explanation of graphs and charts may not be necessary unless it’s the kind of conference where it is expected – for example a scientific symposium or sales conference. Print the graphs and charts as handouts so participants can study them later.

Make the most important points of your presentation memorable. Share a personal anecdote, use compelling visuals on your slides, or make an acronym. Emphasize your message by sharing it again towards the end of your talk. You can either give them 3-5 things to remember, or summarize your main point in 15 words.

What if you forget?

Losing one’s train of thought is one of a public speaker’s biggest fears. But it’s not as catastrophic as you think! There are several ways to handle the situation without making it a big deal. You can:

  • Pause – Sometimes a short pause is all you need to help you remember. Some repeat the last sentence they’ve just said to refresh their memory. Others take a sip of water to give them a bit of time.
  • 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 your audience as well.

A mistake can endear you to the audience as it makes you more relatable. So just relax and don’t aim to be perfect.

Now stop worrying about your presentation. You’ll do great!
Article updated January 9, 2024.
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 Accessed January 9, 2020.

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