Your presentation is coming up and you’ve done everything you can to prepare.You created a slide deck that focuses on visual elements and storytelling. You polished your points and made sure your content is specific and concise. You even rehearsed your delivery a couple of times, just to make sure you remember what to do on stage.
Despite all of this, you still feel a little bit nervous about facing an audience. But don’t worry, because it’s normal to feel some pre-presentation jitters.
Take this video clip of a young Steve Jobs anxiously getting ready for a TV appearance. In the years to come, we’ll see his product launches and keynotes as a benchmark for effective presentation delivery. But in this clip, he was like everyone else—slightly unsure of himself before a big speech. When you’re aiming for the best outcome, you’ll definitely feel a lot of pressure to perform. What matters is that you perform despite the anxiety you feel.
Here are our best tips to help you shake off your pre-presentation jitters:
Use your fear as motivation
Feeling nervous before a big presentation is part of the process. The best thing you can do is to perform despite the uneasiness that you feel. Instead of letting your jitters cripple your confidence, use it as a catalyst to pump yourself up.
Of course, this is easier said than done. When your heart is beating fast and you’re feeling breathless before a big presentation, it’s hard to feel calm and confident. As we’ve discussed in the past, anxiety commonly manifests itself through physical symptoms. When your body is preparing itself for a perceived threat, it can be hard to ignore.
The best thing to do is to channel your adrenaline elsewhere. Some exercise will help your body calm down. Head to the gym in the morning. Spend a few hours working out before you’re scheduled to speak. Even a short walk during lunch break will help.
Another thing you can do is to listen to what researchers call “heavy power music”. A study found that songs with heavy bass lines can evoke a sense of power that allows listeners to mimic and internalize what they hear. In other words, songs like Queen’s “We Will Rock You” will get you feel pumped and excited. The adrenaline you feel can then turn into positive feelings of anticipation and determination.
Prepare for what you can control
Part of your anxiety might also come from a number of imagined “what if” scenarios. Before you even step up the podium, you already have a list of worst case scenarios. What if you can’t make the projector work? What if you end up saying the wrong thing? What if someone starts heckling? What if you can’t answer the questions asked of you in the Q&A?
You’ll feel a lot better if you understand that you can’t control everything in your presentation, especially when it comes to the audience. The only thing you can do is to prepare as much as you can. Aside from perfecting your slides and content, try to anticipate things that you can control. Think of all the questions that might be asked of you. Read up on ways to handle technical difficulties and display issues. Learn some memorization techniques to make sure you won’t suffer from mental blocks.
It’s impossible to come up with a contingency plan for every scenario that might happen in your presentation. The best you can do is to focus on the task at hand—and that’s to communicate your points as clearly as possible.
Keep your eyes on the prize
A lot of our presentation fears stem from self-consciousness. Presenters are often afraid to make a fool out of themselves in front of other people. And because of that, they tend to focus their attention on what the audience might be thinking.
If your pre-presentation jitters are coming from the same place, it’s time to take a step back and reframe your perspective. Remember, this presentation is not about you. You’re delivering a presentation to meet a certain goal and to inform the audience of something that’s important to them. Instead of focusing on what how nervous you feel, try to think of the bigger picture. What are the objectives you want to achieve? What’s the best way to get the best outcome?
It’s tempting to focus on the nervousness that you feel, but try to keep your attention on the goals you want to meet. Keep your eyes on the prize, as they often say.