Techniques for Overcoming Presentation Nerves

Presenting can be an incredibly nerve wracking experience, it can control your whole body and put you in shutdown mode.

Ben Bradbury, October 6, 2016

This extract from Lose Yourself captures what I’m sure we’ve all felt at some point. We’ve all had that terrifying experience where it’s impossible to spit the words out. But now is the time to conquer our fears…


Our fight-or-flight response is really to blame here, our bodies start churning adrenaline through our body and the nerves kick in. But, harnessing these nerves can play to your advantage – the response heightens your senses and as a result you can respond to scenarios more effectively. You can’t fight nerves but here are a few tricks on how to control them:


Ultimately, if you don’t know your content you will panic. Being unsure of what to say in front of a large audience is incredibly nerve-inducing. It is harder to calm your fear if it is rational – not knowing your content on a stage, with all eyes on you, will undoubtedly be embarrassing.

Overcome this by making sure you structure your content well. Structured content will mean that your message remains clear and concise, and as a result you are less likely to get flustered. This will be calming for you in the long run, as you will know the direction that you are taking your presentation in.

TOP TIP: Try easing you and your audience into the event by incorporating interactive presentation tools.


In Vince Lombardi’s words:

‘Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.’

In other words, repetition is only as good as the methods you are using: if your learning system is flawed, then what you learn will be flawed too. Make sure your presentation flows and has clear message.

Do not reel off your presentation like a script! It will seem forced and monotonous – your audience will disengage.

  1. Write out your main arguments in bullet points
  2. Practice going through the presentation using the bullets as a guide
  3. Try to go through the presentation without reading the bullets, but have them in hand just in case you get lost and need a reference

TOP TIP: Focus on memorising your opening – this way you will get in the swing of things and this will have a calming effect. When you nail it, the rest of the presentation will likely free flow.  

Body Language

This may seem like an obvious point, but you can trick your body and audience into thinking you are far more confident than you really are by standing with real presence and smiling. Remember: your body is a tool of communication too.

Distribute your weight evenly, not only for comfort but to indicate a sense of authority and to convey your lead in the presentation. By standing with conviction you will trick your mind into a sense of calm.

Smiling is also key. Not only will it retain the audience’s attention and demonstrate that you’re not unfeeling. It’s a natural relaxant and it will make you feel more at ease and competent, not only that but the audience will be able to relate to you as the presenter.

TOP TIP: Do not have one of those awful fake smiles plastered throughout; they are transparent and cringe-worthy - you are not advertising for a salad commercial. Be genuine and your audience will respond, making your job easier.


I’m pretty sure we have all heard that awful tacky-mouth sound when someone hasn’t drunk enough. It’s extremely off putting and the audience will stop listening to your content and start focusing on your dry mouth. It’s impossible not to.

When you’re nervous the risk of dry-mouth increases. Take some water with you and make sure you take sips occasionally, this way your voice will stay the course. This will allow you to focus on your delivery without any distractions.

Ultimately you are not the first person to be suffering from a presentation-panic, nor will you be the last. Take solace in the fact that everyone in the room is not there to attack you, but to listen to your content.

They are interested in what you have to say – ‘you can do anything you set your mind to man!’


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