Top Ten Ways to Handle Nerves


Yes – for some folks fear of presenting is omnipresent and actually does put fear of public speaking in the same league as fear of death.  While there is no magic bullet for this anxiety there are a number of little things you can do that will give you calm and confidence and make your presentations a success.

  1. Practice and rehearse your material – more than you think you need to. This includes talking through and visualizing the arc of your presentation.
  2. Arrive early to set up the room and test the equipment.
  3. Having arrived early, greet the audience as they arrive. Engage, chat, and make connections. When you begin speaking, use those people you’ve talked to as your “safe harbors” in the audience – friendly faces you can focus on for reassurance.
  4. Be clear about and focus on your objectives – what do you want from the audience? Remember, it’s about them, not you. The most important person in the room is the other person!
  5. Breathe. (A good physical warm up, workout, or long walk the morning before a high-stakes presentation will help prepare and relax you.) Take a deep breath right before you begin.
  6. Find your “money positions” (the one to three places you can stand on the stage and know you look and feel comfortable) and get into one before starting to speak.
  7. Start with a story. Stories are easy to tell and give you access to your best, most relaxed communication style.
  8. Within the first two minutes, shift the focus from you to the audience. If appropriate, ask them to discuss an idea or issue with a fellow audience member.
  9. Carry your notes and give yourself permission to refer to them as often as you want or need to.
  10. When yours is one of several presentations on the program, requiring you to sit and wait before you go on, actively listen to and engage in the presentations prior to yours by taking notes rather than ruminating on your own material or performance. This will help keep you in the present and prevent you from working yourself into a tizzy.