22 Apr Presentation Nerves
You’re usually presenting to people who want to know about the subject, and you’re presenting because you have the information they need – people will forgive a huge amount in the presentation style if they get what they came for.
- Only you know how it should go. This means that the audience won’t know that you’ve done it "wrong". If it’s something that needs correcting (e.g. leaving out a key point), make the correction calmly at an appropriate point.
- As only you know how it should go. This also means that to the audience the experience will be what you tell them it is. If you keep apologising and explaining what you’ve done wrong, they’ll take it as a bad presentation. If you need to correct yourself, something like "Oh, I forgot to say .." would come over as being much calmer than, say, "Oh no! I completely left a point out earlier on, I’m so sorry, let me just put that right for you now, where are my notes?" etc.
- All this assumes that you do know how it should go – there is no substitute for lots of rehearsal, both mental (visualising the whole thing going well, hearing the applause, imagining feeling great at the end, and so on) and actual (rehearsing the whole presentation out loud and to a friendly "reviewer")
- Sometimes it’s the voice that’s the give-away of nerves. If I have a particularly stressful presentation to do, my voice can come out a bit strangled, especially for the first few sentences. I find it useful to some slow, deep breathing before I start
- Learn by heart the first couple of points you want to cover and practise that part the most; especially practise delivering it slowly and with the right breathing. Once that bit’s out of the way it acts to boost confidence and makes the rest of the presentation easier.
- If it’s the audience who might be intimidating, ask a question early on which will get a positive response. Hearing "yes" or seeing lots of nodding heads is a great way of getting some positive reinforcement to help you on your way. (It doesn’t have to be technical, even something like "isn’t it a lovely day?" can do the trick.)
- Be ‘vulnerable’ – it’s a paradox, but the more ‘open’ I am as a presenter, the less ‘heckling’ or resistance I seem to get. If people come across as knowing all the answers and too rigid, it almost encourages the audience to ‘push against the wall’.
- Considering the presentation from the point of view of the audience – many presenters are concerned because they think the audience wants to ‘trip them up’ or wants them to fail. By realising that the audience is actually on their side it can calm the nerves.
- Even in front of a large group, just look at one person at a time for, say, 2/3 seconds, and then look at someone else. That way, you’re just having a conversation with 1 person (normally easy), not 100 (sometimes difficult).
- Self talk is critical. Thinking or saying, "Here goes nothing" as you stand to present is soul-destroying.
- If someone has access to the actual room in which they will present, I encourage them to practice the presentation a few times in that room, pretending that it’s full of people.
- Ditch the PowerPoint and stop telling yourself that you have to go into some stiffly formal Presenter Mode. Just talk to people conversationally, being totally yourself.
Clearly each presenter may have their own specific concerns which need to be addressed, so some of the above tips may need to be tweaked for each individual.