by Peter Watts
The visual opposite of confidence, is sweat. As dark rings blossom beneath the armpits, a statement of “Nervous” telegraphs to the audience. Simple steps can prevent this happening.
Nervousness isn’t the only reason we sweat when presenting; the explanation can be as simple as the temperature of the room we find ourselves standing in. We have come from one temperature zone outside the building, passed through another in the lobby, and then hit a third as we entered the conference room. These temperature fluctuations conspire with our heightened nervous state to make us perspire.
Sweating is something that as presenters we should anticipate and manage.
Wear a light t-shirt against your skin to act as a blotter. V-necks are best, and they must be short sleeved so the armpit is completely covered. The classic round-necked, no sleeve variety will fail in the sweat-test by not offering all-over blotter protection. Choose the lightest, thinnest fabric available so heat escapes, while sweat remains hidden.
What about the face and forehead? For these areas, keep three things in mind:
Rushing to your presentation will literally make you hot, flushed, and sweaty. Be in the room at least 15 minutes ahead of time so you can acclimatise and cool down.
Your grandmother was right when she told you to always carry a clean handkerchief! Even though your forehead is not nearly as sweaty as you might think (a single bead of sweat can feel like a gushing torrent), it will help your confidence if you can give your brow a quick dab just to make sure. Why a handkerchief and not a tissue? Because tissues can disintegrate and it has been known for presenters to go through a whole presentation with fragments of tissue stuck to their foreheads!
Facial sweating stops once we start speaking. If you become aware of perspiration then keep going, it will pass.
Breaking into a sweat is a natural, if slightly unpleasant aspect of presenting that needs to be managed rather than cured.
Dress for sweat! Choose clothes that are comfortable, cool, and concealing. Place a blotter layer against your skin. Have a handkerchief to hand just in case.
Finally, allow yourself plenty of time. The calmer you are, the cooler you’ll be.
For more ideas on how to control presentation nerves, try the following Presenters’s Blog posts: