Managing Nerves – Tools of the Presentation Trade – Part Two

So as I was saying… managing nerves when we present is all about truly managing them with a capital “M” and not trying to wish them away or pretend they’re not happening.  Read Part 1 for tips on how to do that.

Here are additional tips on managing nerves:

Troubleshooting: Always test the equipment.  Microphones feed back sound.  Some are very sensitive to sound while others are faint.  Most microphones these days are multi directional, others you have to lean into to be heard – so double check sound before anyone arrives.  Test the sound with the audio visual person if possible.  If you’re showing a PowerPoint on a computer, have a flash drive back up just in case.  In fact, you should have a plan B for every aspect of your presentation.  And believe me, it’s the little things that kill you.  Electrical extension cords, proper electrical converter appropriate to the country that you’re in, insufficient lighting at the podium to read your notes, etc… the more prepared, the less nervous you will be.  Doing whatever you can to eliminate the unknown, will help you manage nerves.

Practice: The key to practising a presentation is doing it out loud.  The physical act of speaking is different from the process of thinking it through and the unknown sensation of saying the words, phrasing the thoughts, thinking on our feet, hearing your voice can be anxiety provoking.  Practice out loud at least 3 times.  Preferably with a partner.  If you can’t practice the whole presentation out loud, at least do the opening few minutes.  It’s when you’re most likely to be nervous and self conscious.  If you start on solid footing, it will most likely carry you through the rough patches.

Exercise: The day of a presentation, do something physical to get your blood flowing, your heart pounding, and out of a head that’s filled with anxious thoughts of failure.  Exercise helps us stay present.

Movement: Commit to your gestures and your movement and do them fully.  It will help you channel your nerves into energy.  There is a difference between movement that reveals anxiety and movement that is strong and affective. Movement with commitment and purpose will allow you to connect with your body and be more authoritative.  And will calm you.  As long as you move with purpose.  To be clear, habitual shuffling of feet or clasping hands is NOT what I mean by effective movement.  I’m also not a fan of having a pen or a laser pointer as they can limit our gestures and our expressiveness.  (I know this is controversial, but I have seen my fair share of presenters distract an audience by clutching a pen or laser pointing every detail on a slide to drive us to distraction.)

Water: Feel free to have some handy in case you experience dry mouth.  Remember your allowed to be a human being up there and water helps us pause, and get back into a more calm and confident head space.

I sincerely hope you find these tips helpful and once again I encourage you to share your insights, tips, horror stories, success’s, etc.  It’s a profoundly generous act to share and I’m always looking for more insights.

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