How to ditch the nerves!
“I get incredibly nervous before public speaking, no matter how big the crowd or the audience. And despite the fact that I laugh and joke all the time, I get incredibly nervous, if not anxious actually, before going into rooms full of people when I’m wearing a suit.”
This was the admission by none other than Prince Harry as part of the ‘Feel No Shame’ campaign for World Aids Day in December 2014. It’s hard to believe that someone who is often called upon to make speeches and presentations as part of his public duties would feel nervous. But at the same time, it’s actually not! Feeling nervous is incredibly common – how many times have you heard professional performers who say they are terrified when they’re waiting to go on stage.
Even the most experienced presenter can suffer from nerves, that horrible feeling as your palms become ever more sweaty, the voice begins to shake, that red rash spreads over your face and neck – over the many years I’ve been delivering training in presentation skills nerves is probably the number one issue people have. If you’re a fan of The Apprentice you’ll remember Mark Wright’s (the eventual winner) excruciatingly painful battle with nerves during a presentation
But nerves don’t stop Harry from speaking in public, it doesn’t stop Robbie Williams from wowing his fans, it doesn’t stop actors from giving an outstanding performance. Why? Because they feel the fear and do it anyway!
So how can you deal with your nerves?
1. Don’t worry
Yes, some things may go wrong. The IT might fail, maybe you’ll forget to say some things – it’s how you deal with it that matters. Don’t worry about what could go wrong, just make sure you have a Plan B. Note down really important key points on cards, or have notes with you – if you lose your way simply take a breath and check your notes. Your audience will forgive such moments as long as you handle them with confidence.
2. Preparation, preparation, preparation
I meet so many people who say they get nervous about presenting and I never cease to be amazed that so many of them admit that they often leave their preparation to the night before. Even the greatest presenters don’t rely on ‘winging it’. They spend hours planning their talk, thinking deeply about what their audience wants to hear, rehearsing several times and making sure that they are completely comfortable with what they need to do.
3. Be Natural
A really good presentation is like a conversation – personal, engaging and relaxed. Yes, all eyes are on you but try to not think too much about your body language. Use your common sense, recognise that the audience needs to be able to see you and will want to actually engage with you rather than simply looking at your slides.
4.Take your time
The biggest mistake a nervous presenter can make is to rush the presentation – please don’t do it! Take your time, remember to breathe. And pause. The audience needs time to reflect on each point you make.
5. Most people are on your side
Remember, most if not all of your audience will want you to give a successful presentation. After all, they are there for a reason too – and it’s not because they want you to fail!
Still worrying? Take a look at this short animation from Watchwellcast – it contains some great tips.