Even skilled presenters may sometimes experience a bit of tension. In stressful situations, feeling nervous is a natural physical reaction. Maybe you’ve experienced this yourself. You start to tremble, sweat or blush. And – unfortunately – even if you are well-prepared, this can still happen. However, the truth is that often this tension is more related to your own assessment of the situation than to your actual abilities as a presenter. So what can you do to master those annoying nerves, and still be able to give a powerful presentation? Let me help you to get started by using four basic rules.
1) Accept your nerves
When you decide to accept your involuntary physical reactions instead of being worried about them, managing feelings of nervousness becomes much easier to deal with. Remember that most of your body’s reactions are not visible to the audience. In fact, you can channel your (nervous) energy constructively. How? By making underlying gestures that support and enliven what you have to say. Also, a simple ‘warm up’ can be very effective. People who are tense often seem a little stiff and formal. By moving about, you loosen up and become more alert. So: stretch, use your voice fully and shake out those tricky nerves before the start of your presentation!
2) Ground: stand on your own two feet
Your posture – particularly the way you stand – conveys a message to the audience and also to yourself. By standing tall and relaxed, firmly on both feet, knees flexible, breastbone up, your body is telling people: “I am at ease with myself. I stand up for what I say.” Of course, you can always move and walk about just as you like, however, coming back to this relaxed but grounded standing posture regularly will help you to feel secure. And when you feel secure, the tension will release via those two feet of yours planted firmly on the floor.
One of the most effective ways to reduce your tension and to stay calm is by breathing freely and deeply. When you do so, you give a signal to your brain that the situation is safe, and this allows you to think clearly. When you are grounded, as described above, you make space for yourself to breathe fully. An hour or so before your presentation, take time to slow down your breath consciously, in order to get used to keeping yourself calm. Also make sure that you take small pauses when speaking, when you arrive at the ‘commas and full stops’ in your speech or presentation. This allows your body to breathe in and out by itself, and find a natural punctuation of your message.
Once you have taken care of your own needs by taking a stable and flexible posture and by breathing freely – you can do this in only a few seconds – you can then shift your attention to your audience. This outward focus to the audience will get you into a positive spiral, so that you can give your audience the energy it needs from you.
And now – do you feel ready for that next presentation? I’d like to help you to feel prepared for it. Whether it takes place live or online, I always focus my presentation training on what you need in order to be completely at ease during all your public speaking, whether it’s a talk to a small group, a presentation to colleagues, or a professional speech to a big audience.