How To Not Be Nervous for a Presentation: 19 Tips That Work

Updated February 3, 2023

Five people at a table with papers on it watch a person giving a presentation at the front of the room.

Giving presentations is often a challenge for many professionals. While conversing one-on-one in the work setting is a common task, making a speech or a presentation can be an anxiety-inducing scenario for many. Luckily, there are several techniques you can use to calm your nerves before a presentation or public speech to ensure you do and feel your best.

Here we explore why people get nervous before giving a presentation and 19 tips to stay calm while presenting information to others.

Why do I get nervous before a presentation?

According to the National Social Anxiety Center, fear of public speaking is the most common phobia. This phobia is even more prevalent than fear of heights, death and spiders. So, if you're feeling especially nervous before giving a presentation, it can be comforting to know you aren't alone. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health has estimated that around 73% of individuals have some fear of public speaking.

The primary contributing factor to this phobia is the fear of negative evaluation or judgment from others. Many people get in front of a group of people and freeze or forget what they were going to talk about. This results in an increased level of stress that can actually shut down the frontal lobe of the brain, which is partly responsible for memory retrieval.

Nervousness caused by giving a presentation or public speaking, in general, is not only highly common but also psychologically and biologically influenced.

Related: 18 Presentation Skills for Business and How to Improve Them

How to not be nervous for a presentation

While giving a presentation or making a speech at work may feel challenging, there are several things you can do to calm your nerves and set yourself up for success. Here are 19 ways to reduce nerves and ensure you remain calm throughout your presentation:

1. De-catastrophize brain freezes

Forgetting what you were going to say while making a speech is completely normal and has likely happened to the majority of people who have given a speech before. While it may feel catastrophic in the moment, the audience often doesn't even notice, and if they do, they quickly forget it. Understanding that this minor blip in your presentation is just that and not a catastrophe will help you quickly get over the memory lapse and carry on with your presentation professionally.

Related: 10 Tips for Giving a Great Presentation

2. Set reasonable expectations

It's easy to expect perfectionism from ourselves, especially in the face of a big event such as giving a speech or making a presentation. However, it's important to set reasonable expectations so you aren't left upset if you do slip up during a presentation. Keep in mind that everyone makes mistakes and that no one will think differently of you if you don't deliver a perfect speech.

3. Practice

Practicing your presentation is essential to increasing your confidence and ensuring you're prepared. Consider practicing with a friend or family member and ask for their feedback. Continue to practice until you feel you're able to make the presentation with confidence.

Related: How To Create a Presentation Introduction (With Examples)

4. Use notes

Unless someone has specifically told you not to, feel free to use notes to guide your presentation to stay on track. Use your notes as a visual cue so you can recover easily if you get stuck when you're feeling anxious. If you're using a slideshow to guide your presentation, consider printing speaker notes to help you rehearse and keep your presentation on track.

5. Breathe

Practicing deep breathing is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety. Deep breathing helps to regulate adrenalin, a chemical that's activated when you're afraid. Taking deep breaths also helps to circulate oxygen through the brain and will enable you to think more clearly.

Related: 11 Simple Strategies To Relax at Work

6. Speak slowly

Speaking slowly will help to calm your nerves and will also ensure your audience is able to hear you. You should practice speaking slowly before the presentation, as it's easy to start speaking quickly when you're especially nervous or anxious.

7. Know your audience

Knowing who you'll be making your presentation to gives you a chance to become more familiar with what to expect in terms of audience. The more familiar you feel with your audience, the more confident you'll feel during your presentation.

Related: How To Prepare for Public Speaking and Different Types of Events

8. Create a structure for your presentation

Creating a structure for your presentation offers a guide you can follow even when you're feeling very nervous. Create an outline of your presentation in the order in which you want to present each topic. If you lose your place in your speech and feel anxious, simply glance at your outline and continue where you left off.

Related: 6 Types of Presentations to Use in the Workplace

9. Drink water

Anxiety often causes dry mouth, which is especially distracting when making a public presentation. Stay hydrated before your presentation and keep a bottle of water near you when you're presenting to prevent dry mouth.

10. Smile

Smiling is a great tool to use when you're feeling nervous or anxious. This face gesture releases endorphins and will help you feel more confident. It also portrays confidence and excitement to others, which will, in turn, help your message be well received by the audience.

11. Make eye contact

Staring at your notes or the floor while giving a presentation is often an unconscious reaction to feeling nervous and unsure of yourself. Instead of staring off into space when speaking, choose a few friendly faces to make eye contact with. This helps to engage the audience and gives the audience the opportunity to portray their interest in what you're saying.

Related: Why Eye Contact Is Important (With 8 Tips and Alternatives)

12. Avoid stimulants before the presentation

Drinking coffee will increase your heart rate and sweating and can even make your hands shake. This often gives the audience the idea that you're nervous, even if you're not. Avoid caffeine before your presentation to ensure you feel as calm and relaxed as possible.

13. Take notes during other presentations

A great way to boost your confidence when it comes to giving presentations is to attend other presentations and take notes. Notice what the speaker does with their hands, how long they speak for and how often they pause during their speech. Making notes of these details will give you ideas as to what to do during your own presentation.

Related: 17 Best Presentation Tools To Use for Your Next Project

14. Turn your nervous energy into enthusiasm

Nervousness and excitement often feel the same in the body. So, if you're feeling especially nervous before a presentation, turn this into enthusiasm by using that nervousness to pump yourself up. Focus on being excited to make the presentation and tell yourself that the anxiousness you're feeling is actually positive energy in anticipation of sharing your knowledge with others.

15. Get there early

Arriving at the place where you'll make your presentation early gives you the opportunity to get a feel for the environment in which you'll give your presentation. Get there 15 to 20 minutes early and stand where you'll be standing when you present. Visualize people in the chairs and how you'll handle speaking to a full room.

Related: How To Create an Effective Presentation Outline

16. Talk with people before the presentation

Doing a meet-and-greet with the audience before the presentation begins gives you the opportunity to make connections with your audience so you don't feel as if you're presenting to a group of strangers. This will also allow your audience to get to know you a little bit and encourage more support from them during your presentation.

17. Exercise before the presentation

Exercising before making your presentation is a great way to alleviate nervous tension and get your blood flowing. Exercise will allow you to work through the stress and anxiousness so you arrive at your presentation refreshed and calmer.

18. Practice confident body language

Body language is a primary way in which your audience will interpret both you and your presentation. Practice standing up straight with your shoulders back. Relax your facial muscles and smile as much as possible. The more confident you appear, the more confident you're likely to feel.

Related: 13 Ways To Show Confidence Through Body Language

19. Accept your fear

Rather than trying to fight any fear you have around making a presentation, instead, try accepting that fear as a normal part of life. While denying or fighting the fear will often only make it worse, accepting it and choosing to act despite the fear helps build confidence.

Nonverbal communication is one of many tools that can help you make a good impression in interviews and in your professional life. However, candidate assessments should be based on skills and qualifications, and workplaces should strive to be inclusive and understanding of individual differences in communication styles.

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