Being nervous when giving a presentation is perfectly normal. There are two main reasons people feel nervous when giving a presentation. The first is because we are basically pack animals, we like to do what everyone around us is doing. When you are giving a presentation you are not doing what everyone else is doing. This is deeply ingrained into our psyche and there is nothing much you can do about it. The second reason is because we become conscious that people are judging us. Again it is common to become nervous when you realize people are judging you.
Many people start to worry about being nervous which makes it worse. The best approach when you realize that you are feeling nervous is to re-frame the anxiety by congratulating yourself. Tell yourself you are supposed to be nervous and that is okay because it means that you are doing it right. Don’t start worrying about being nervous just get on with the presentation.
Most people will not look as nervous as they feel. Like a duck swimming, under the water its legs are paddling furiously but all the onlooker sees is the duck gliding gracefully across the water.
Knowing your material well and having practiced it, by saying the presentation out loud beforehand, will help counter the second reason for being nervous. In particular try to memorize the first two or three opening sentences which will help you to get going when your nerves are at their worst.
Pumping up your self-confidence, creating a positive attitude to giving the presentation will also help. I have two sayings that I repeat to myself before I go into the room. “I am Poised, Prepared, Persuasive, Positive and Powerful. I feel Composed, Confident, Convincing, Commanding and Compelling“. Repeating these phrases out loud makes me feel more positive and in control, I stand up straighter and my shoulders go back and I feel more confident.
An alternative is to Power Pose as recommended by Amy Cuddy, see her TED talk below:
Finally my last piece of advice on handling your presentation nerves is to make sure that you breathe properly. By breathing properly what I mean is taking a few deep breaths using the diaphragm before you stand up to speak. To check if you are breathing properly place your hand on your stomach and breathe in, your stomach should move outwards not inwards. If it moves inwards you are taking what is known as a chesty breath and only filling the top part of your lungs with air. A few good deep breaths will help oxygenate your blood, let your brain work better, it also has a calming effect in its own right.
So don’t let nerves get in the way of giving a great presentation, the time to start worrying is when you are not nervous before a presentation as it probably means you haven’t given enough thought to what you are about to do.