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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.