It’s perfectly normal to be nervous before giving a presentation. This is especially true if you’ve never done much public speaking before or if this presentation is particularly important. But nerves don’t have to derail your success.
The fear of public speaking is incredibly common. In fact, it’s estimated that as much as 75 percent of people fear public speaking to some degree. No matter where you fall on this spectrum, there are some things you can do to help steady your nerves before delivering a major presentation.
1. Talk about it the right way
It helps to talk about your feelings — that is, as long as you’re talking to the right people and in the right way. Ruminating on a fear isn’t helpful, so you don’t want to linger on your feelings for too long.
However, spending a few minutes sharing your thoughts with someone you trust to build you up can be really helpful. Airing your fears can help get them off your chest and out of your mind. The right listener can help you to see how normal it is to be nervous, and they’ll also remind you that you can handle this and that you’ll do a great job.
2. Be aware of food, exercise and sleep the night before your presentation
Being well-rested will help you to be at your best. However, this is often easier said than done. It can be hard to get to sleep when you’re feeling nervous about the next day.
Getting plenty of exercise can help with that. Leave time to go for a run, or to the gym, the evening before your presentation. Then, come home and eat a healthy dinner, which will help to stabilize your mood.
Finally, head to bed a little early so that you can be sure to get a full night’s rest before your big day.
3. Know that the physical manifestations of nervousness are normal
Nervousness can be helpful, as long as it’s directed in the right way. The physical signs of nerves, like sweaty palms or a racing heartbeat, might feel kind of crummy, but they are actually totally natural and normal. They could even help you to do your best by giving you improved focus and more energy.
Learning to respect the signs that adrenaline is coursing through you should help you to get past the negative associations you have with these sensations.
“So if you find any of this happening to you, focus on those annoying physical symptoms and redefine them as the signs of the good energy that they are,” writes Nick Morgan for Forbes. “Tell yourself, My hands are clammy, my heart is beating fast, and my mind is racing. I’m ready to run with the mammoths and tigers! This is what I need to do a good job!”
4. Be prepared
Perhaps the single most important thing you can do to help ease your nerves before a big presentation is to be prepared.
Be sure that you fully understand everything you’re presenting and that you feel some genuine enthusiasm about the topic. If you’re excited, your audience will follow suit.
Of course, you’ll also want to practice your presentation. Do a few complete run-throughs ahead of time to iron out any wrinkles. You may even want to have someone you trust act as your audience. They might offer some valuable feedback that you can use to improve your talk.
5. Leave plenty of time
The last thing you want to do is heighten your anxiety on the day or your presentation. If you are running late, or can’t find the materials that you need, you’ll likely get yourself worked up. So, be sure to leave plenty of time to get where you need to be the day of the presentation. Arrive early if you can. It might help to have the time to get acclimated to the space where you’ll be giving your talk.
6. Don’t be too hard on yourself
Keep in mind that you don’t need to deliver the world’s best speech here. You only need to improve upon what you’ve done in the past in order to be successful.
Learning to be an excellent public speaker takes time and practice. You’re getting that now. Once your speech is behind you, don’t focus on what didn’t go well or what you could have said more clearly.
Beating yourself up won’t get you anywhere. Instead, simply accept the mistakes that were made and vow to learn from them for the future. Trust that it’s all a part of the process and don’t be too hard on yourself along the way.
7. Relish in successes
Take note every time you experience some success with public speaking. If and when this presentation goes well, it will be another feather in your cap. You should relish the accomplishment, and remind yourself of it the next time you have a talk to give.
Success with public speaking tends to build upon itself. But, in order to fully enjoy this benefit, you have to give yourself the praise you deserve. So, be sure to take the time to really appreciate and celebrate your public speaking successes along the way.
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