3 Tips to Reduce Your Anxiety Before and During Your Presentation

Anxiety can be an absolute killer.

Your presentation doesn’t stand a chance against it.  The more anxious you are about your presentation the closer to disaster you will be.  That is because anxiety feeds on itself.  As your anxiety builds, you focus on what could go wrong and that only increases the anxiety.  That anxiety snowball gains momentum until it is simply intolerable and completely takes over your presentation.  In addition, when you are anxious, you make your audience anxious and that is not good for either of you.

But, there is some hope!

If you are even the slightest bit anxious about a presentation you have coming up, you can use these 3 tips to reduce and tame your anxiety before and during your presentation.

  1. Give up the need to be perfect

I understand that you want to remember every single line in your speech.

You want to be able to recite your lines word-perfect, using the highest quality vocal tones. You want to gesture at just the right times to impress your audience. The truth is, the chance of everything being perfect is almost zero because something is bound to go wrong. However, that is okay because you are human and we are very imperfect creatures so mistakes and miscues will occur, it matters more how you deal with them than that they actually happened. The more you focus on being perfect, the more likely it is something will go wrong because a focus on perfection increases your anxiety. When you give up the need to be perfect and accept that things might not go to plan, you can reduce your anxiety.  In fact, I usually play “what if?” when I prepare for a presentation so that I have options if something does not go according to plan A.

  1. Accept that mistakes will likely happen

Mistakes can and will happen, just be prepared for how to overcome them. You can reduce your anxiety by remembering that mistakes are not bad.

Imagine you are in a regular conversation and as you are talking you forget something. You know, one of those moments where what you want to say is on the tip of your tongue but you just can’t find the right word. In regular conversation, mistakes happen all the time. How do you handle those? Do you panic, freeze, go red-faced, apologize profusely to your friends? Of course not, you just laugh it off and move on. You should handle presentation mistakes in the same way.

Remember that most of the time, your audience doesn’t notice your mistakes. If they do, they probably don’t care.

Accept that mistakes will happen and you will be able to reduce your anxiety.  Remember: Just move on.

  1. Focus on the relationship

Ask “What is the most important part of a presentation?” and you will hear answers such as “well-designed slides”“clear speech” or “confidence”.

While these things are important to varying degrees, there is one part of your presentation that is more important than all others and that is your relationship with the audience.  Get this wrong and nothing else matters. If you don’t have a good relationship with the audience chances are they aren’t listening to your “clear speech” or paying attention to your “well-designed slides”. You want them focussed on what you are telling them and engaged in the presentation.

So how do you establish a good relationship with your audience?

That is very simple, just talk to them like they are human and as if you are just speaking to a group of your friends. Communicate effectively with them so that they can enjoy what you are telling them. Audiences sit through hours and hours of robotic presentations every year and they usually are just lectures with bullet points.  The presenter just reads them the bullet points.  Do not be that kind of presenter, use pictures, short phrases or single words on your slides and then elaborate on those in ways that are entertaining and interesting by telling stories and making things more human.

If you treat the audience the same as you would if they were in regular conversation with you, you can build a sound relationship with them. Build that relationship and they will start to listen. Build that relationship and they will become more receptive to what you are saying.

When you have a good relationship, and your audience is receptive, you reduce your anxiety and you will make a  better presentation as a result and might even enjoy yourself in the process.

Sandy Chernoff
Sandy Chernoffhttp://softskillsforsuccess.com/
SANDY'S 30 years of didactic and clinical teaching in study clubs and continuing dental education, coupled with her almost 40 years of Dental Hygiene practice bring a wealth of experience to her interactive soft skills workshops. With her education background she easily customizes interactive sessions to suit the specific needs of her clients. Her energetic and humorous presentation style has entertained and informed audiences from Victoria to New York City. Sandy’s client list includes law firms, teaching institutions, volunteer and professional organizations and conferences, businesses, and individuals. Her newest project is turning her live workshops into e-learning programs using an LMS platform. Her teaching and education background have helped her to produce meaningful and somewhat interactive courses for the learners wanting the convenience of e-learning options. As the author of 5 Secrets to Effective Communication, Sandy has demonstrated her ability to demystify the complexities of communication so that the reader can learn better strategies and approaches which will greatly improve their communication skills and ultimately reduce conflict, resentment, disappointment, complaining, and confusion. As a result, the reader will be able to increase productivity, efficiency and creativity, improve all the relationships in their lives and ultimately enjoy a happier, healthier existence! Sandy blogs regularly on her two websites on the various soft skills topics that are featured in her workshops and e-learning programs.

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  1. Thanks Sandy, I needed to read this since I am preparing for a presentation of which I have done often, just different subject matter, yet I get so nervous. This article will help me alot. Thank you

    • Hi Lynn, Happy to hear that the tips will be helpful to you. Also, take a deep breath or two before you start as that will slow things as well. I am sure you are well prepared so you will do a great job. Enjoy yourself!

  2. Sandy — Nicely said. As a card-carrying introvert, I have found that a heavy dose of #3 BEFORE the presentation definitely works. Mingle with participants if it’s a workshop or with audience members if it’s a keynote. Doing so tells them – and you – that you’re approachable.

    • Glad that works for you, Jeff. Public speaking is generally something that most people would rather not do. In the end, it really just boils down to your prep. When I teach this, I always tell my clients NOT to memorize their presentation, rather KNOW it. We are all nervous when facing a new audience, even those of us who speak for a living but once I get into my presentation, I forget to be nervous because I am too busy having fun with my audience. I also meet & greet before a session as you are right it shows that I am approachable. Thanks for adding your experience and taking the time to read the piece, Jeff, I really appreciate it.

  3. Sandy, all three of your points are right on the money which comes as no surprise. As a person who suffers from anxiety/panic attacks I know how debilitating they can be. Certain breathing techniques have proven to be effective for some people. When I did outside sales presentations one of the things that helped me was rehearsing my presentation. Thank you, Sandy for sharing your knowledge and vast experience. I hope you and your family are well.

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