5 strategies to overcome those public speaking nerves

No need to avoid presenting any longer

You have been asked to present at your next industry conference. Woohoo!! Or maybe not. The thought of standing in front of 400 people is terrifying and the self-talk starts in your head.

  • I have no idea how to put together a presentation, what was I thinking?
  • No way am I going to put myself through all that stress
  • What if I get up there and I forget everything and completely fall apart?
  • What if they all hate my presentation?
  • What if they all hate me?
  • My reputation, credibility and career is ruined forever

Does any of this sound familiar?

Presenting is one of the MUST have skills in business, in fact in life. You will regularly be asked to share your view, your message, your products, your services or your story throughout your career. So, stop avoiding the inevitable and get on top of those speaking nerves and that self-sabotaging mind chatter.

Yes, you should at some stage learn how to structure and prepare a powerful presentation and yes, the more you present the easier it becomes but if you have that presentation next week and need some quick tips to keep those nerves at bay try the strategies below.

  1. Prepare – The preparation is always evident. Never wing it. So many times, I have seen presenters crash because they don’t know their audience or even their own presentation well enough. Do your research about the audience, the outcomes and of course know your presentation inside out. This doesn’t mean rehearse word for word, far from it. Just know the content and your area of expertise well enough to be of service to your audience. If you think you are going to forget anything, have some strategies in place like notes, props, pre-prepared flip charts, key words on your slides. (no palm cards please) and be okay with not being perfect. Even seasoned presenters forget something they wanted to say from time to time.
  2. Positive Mindset – If you have prepared your presentation and you know your stuff everything else going on is in your head. Think positively about your presentation. What gift will you be sharing with the audience? You’ve obviously been asked to present because somebody believes in you, you just need to believe in yourself. When you are comfortable and having fun you give permission for your audience to feel the same. Don’t confuse good nerves with destructive nerves either. I always get a few excited butterflies before any presentation. It just means I care. I then turn them into positive energy.
  3. Visualise – I know what you might be thinking here, really Paula how is this going to help? But hear me out. Did you know Elite athletes use visualisation as part of their training programme? Most high performers in any field will fill their minds with positive images and scenarios. According to research using brain imagery, visualisation works because neurons in our brains, interpret imagery as equivalent to a real-life action. Once you can imagine a wonderful presenting experience your mind and body will move toward re-creating the experience. So start imagining your stellar performance, including the audience smiling back at you in full colour.
  4. Power pose – You may have heard this one before, but it works. Although the Power Pose has it’s skeptics, Dr Amy Cuddy’s research on Presence discusses that our body can shape our mind and our mind can shape our behaviour. So, you can prepare to be confident with your body as well as your mind. When you are feeling anxious or challenged you react and end up in a fight, flight or even a freeze moment. By just slowing your breathing down for example can change what your nervous system is doing, and by standing tall with your head up and your hands on your hips can change the way your brain is reacting to the situation. Amy suggests you fake it until you become it instead of faking it until you make it. In other words trick your mind into thinking you are calm and confident. You will start to believe it. So, do that power pose in the bathroom mirror in the morning and before you walk on stage, then walk onto that stage with strong strides, head up and smiling at your audience. Just the way you hold your body can increase your confidence and the belief in yourself.
  5. Show up – That’s right, if you avoid showing up or accepting your presenting challenge, you will never face or work with your speaking nerves. You can call it exposure therapy if you like but showing up (after you have done everything else to prepare of course) and giving it your best shot will give you the confidence to do it again and again. Everyone, even the professional speakers had to start somewhere. If you don’t show up and give it a go, you will never know how many opportunities you might have missed to connect with or help the people in front of you.

So, are you ready to give it a go. This is your new self-talk.

  • The day has finally come, I am looking forward to it
  • I am really excited to share this new research
  • I am confident I will get to meet some interesting people before and after the presentation
  • This is great for my positioning in the industry and my organisation
  • I can’t believe how many times I have said no to delivering a presentation
  • I hope I get asked to present this again as I am so prepared and it would be a shame to only share this once.

Now look into that mirror, hands on hips, head up and say out loud


Paula Smith
Presentation Intelligence

Paula has been helping experts, organisations and executives harness the power of speaking for the past 30 years and delivers courses in Presentation Skills, Presentation Intelligence®, Neuropresenting®, Mastering Meetings and Leadership. With a degree in adult learning and a master’s degree in leadership, she assists entrepreneurs, experts and executives to lead from the front of the room and will ensure your next meeting or presentation hits the mark.

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