What To Do If You’re A Nervous Presenter

Sep 13, 2019

Practical advice from panicked turned pro
It’s your cue to take the podium. Do you freeze, get sweaty palms or a racing heartrate? Do your legs turn to jelly? Do you forget your opening line? Or do you glide in front of your audience and take control of the room effortlessly? It takes a lot of time or a certain level of comfort and confidence to master the mic.

Some nervous presenters agree with Jerry Seinfeld’s statement, “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” If you agree, read on.

I wrote about my childhood anxiety in an earlier blog and how my mum sent me to speech and drama classes to help overcome my fear. I’ve been speaking in front of people for a living now for about 15 years. And I still get nervous. But now I love it. Because I know that I’m normal. There’s something slightly off if you don’t get nervous. You experience anxiety because your cortisol is up – the stress hormone.

So what can you do to turn your nerves into enthusiasm?

1. Behind the Scenes
Before you arrive, find a bathroom cubicle, your car or empty office and pose! Amy Cuddy of the Harvard Business School recommends practicing ‘power poses’ for two minutes (no longer) in private. Some typical power poses include standing with hands on hips, hands raised in a high V or out horizontally. Remember to raise your sternum too.

This simple exercise literally changes your state. Your cortisol drops and testosterone increases – the dominance hormone. You feel more powerful. You’re ready.

I believe that positive affirmations and visualisation exercises are important and so useful too.

2. When you’re live
You’ve arrived in front of your audience. The truth is that they actually want you to succeed. So, keep your sternum up. They will spot your sinking confidence if it drops by just two millimetres (I learned that from Tony Robbins.)

If you’ve got shaky hand syndrome, avoid holding notes as the audience find it distracting. No matter the size of the audience, move around the room with purpose. No pacing. No statue poses. Gesture from your solar plexus all the way to your fingertips. Your solar plexus is the spongy area just below your breastbone. Moving and gesturing uses your nervous energy and transforms it into enthusiasm. If it helps, use a lapel mic for large audiences to give yourself freedom of movement.

My final word on nerves is that practising your presentation, speech or training will ultimately set you up for success.

Go get ’em!