Presentation nerves

Nine proven routes to calm and confident presenting

by Peter Watts

Beating presentation nerves can seem like a battle; a no-holds-barred FIGHT to overcome your fears. Bosses and colleagues, like drill sergeants, urge us from the trenches and up onto the no-mans land of the stage.

“You’re team needs you. Get out there soldier!”

This approach is completely wrong.

First point to be aware of: Presentation nerves can never be eliminated, and it would not be desirable to do so. Controlled nervous tension can promote excellence.

Second point to be aware of: The tangible bodily sensations that come with presentation nerves, can be easily managed if we understand the mechanics that create them.

That’s what this article will help you to do. I’m not going to tell you how to beat presentation nerves, because I believe that as a natural bodily reaction we should work with our jitters, not against them. When we focus on beating nerves we just drive them deeper into our psyches. Instead, we can understand them, and adopt simple measures that make presenting a significantly easier process.

Do any of the following affect you when presenting?

  • Tightness of breath
  • Rapid heart-rate
  • Sweating
  • Blushing
  • Cold or clammy hands
  • Trembling
  • Butterflies in the stomach
  • Nausea
  • Tension headaches
  • Loss of concentration
  • Dry-throat
  • Scratchy voice
  • Low self-esteem

If yes, then within the following articles, you will find practical measures that work with your body to overcome those reactions. Each heading is a link. Simply click on it to review the associated article:

Breathing yourself calm

Sensations associated with presentation nerves are soothed by effective breathing. Find out how controlling your out-breathe lowers your heart rate to control sweating, blushing, trembling, blood-pressure, and nervous tension.

Calming the butterflies

Presentation nerves suppress appetite, so that when we approach a presentation we are more in need of food than we realize. As blood sugars collapse, our concentration collapses with them, and our stomachs develop those familiar butterfly wings.

Find out what to eat, what not to eat, and when to eat, in order to calm presentation butterflies

Dealing with dry mouth

Voice rapidly heading for a croak? Or afraid it might? In this post we solve the dry-mouth issue, and identify the best drinks to keep your voice flowing smoothly.

No sweat

Sweating can be an unpleasant presentation issue, and one we become acutely aware of.  Basic preventative measures help mitigate the problem.

Cold hands

Colds hands are a standard stress response. Find out why this is, and how something as simple as holding a warm cup can be an instant cure.

I think, therefore I am

How to control the messages we give ourselves before a presentation, to ensure we remain calm and in control during the presentation.

Puncturing perfectionism

Preparation is essential for presenting, but when we topple over into perfectionism, we create an impossible mountain to climb. This post discusses how to reduce those mountains back into molehills.

Taking the plunge

The first plunge can be the toughest. The more often you take it though, the easier it becomes. Repetition is the most sure-fire way to becoming a confident presenter.

Coaching yourself after a presentation

What happens after the presentation? How we coach ourselves once the event is finished will set up our confidence for next time. Find out how to be your own personal coach after every presentation.

Fear of public speaking is perfectly natural, and you are not alone in experiencing it. Indeed, some surveys have shown that for many people it isn’t just a fear, but their number one fear, and that’s why becoming a confident and competent public speaker is such a wonderful goal. If you can achieve this goal, then what other goals also become so much more achievable.

I believe public speaking is therefore a gateway activity. Once we prove to ourselves that we can successfully speak in public, we are empowered onwards to achieve so much more.

Enjoy all the articles linked from this blog, and if there are any areas of presentation nerves not dealt with here, that you might like help with, then please do post a comment.

It will be my pleasure to forward you the extra ideas that might help you forward into the highly rewarding world of presenting.

Simple preparation rituals can power presentation energy

How do you psyche yourself up to your best achievement levels?

by Peter Watts

If you’re Rafael Nadal, about to win your sixth French Open tennis tournament, then the process looks a little like this:

  1. Push hair behind left ear
  2. Push hair behind right ear
  3. Knock heel of left shoe with tennis racket
  4. Knock heel of right show with tennis racket
  5. Scuff three steps sideways to the left along the back-court line
  6. Scuff three steps sideways to the right along the back-court line
  7. SERVE!

Athletes and sports-teams all have their own unique pre-performance rituals that they repeat before that first all important move onto the field.

For some, like the New Zealand All-Blacks rugby team, those rituals are dramatically overt, designed to both psyche the athlete and to intimidate the competition. For others, like Nadal, they are simply habitual actions that have become mentally linked to success.

Presenting is a performance sport. You too are on the field before an audience; You too have adrenalin flowing as if entering the Olympics; You too can benefit from pre-performance rituals.

Rituals connect you to a feeling of success. I know many presenters who have mantras that they quietly repeat to themselves, or use specific breathing techniques to get into the zone. I myself have the habit of quietly placing together my thumb, index finger, and middle finger in an accupressure position for a few quiet seconds before I present. Over years of repetition I now associate this simple hand movement with entering my calm-zone ahead of speaking. Nobody can see me do it, and the ritual’s associative power puts me exactly where I need to be before I go onstage.

Avoid rituals that rely on external objects such as the famous “lucky tie”. Think for example of the stories we hear about leading singers who couldn’t perform because there weren’t exactly five pink carnations to the left of their dressing room mirror, or someone forgot to remove the blue M&M’s from the candy bowl. These rituals fail because they rely on external objects or other people.

The guidelines for effective pre-presentation rituals are simple:

  • based on affirmations, minute gestures, breathing techniques, or visualizations that you can always summon when needed.
  • can be performed quietly and immediately without the outside world being aware of them
  • quick and simple, taking no longer than 3 – 5 seconds
  • effective in bringing you to the required performance state for the task at hand

If you don’t already have a pre-performance ritual of your own, try experimenting. The best time to adopt one is immediately after a successful presentation. In that moment when you are experiencing the endorphin rush of success, try to anchor that wonderful sensation with your own conscious ritual. Repeat the process at a later time, and you’ll feel the echo of the endorphins once again powering through your system and powering you out onto the stage.

Breathe Yourself Calm – Part of “Presentation Nerves”

by Peter Watts

Presentation nerves are a form of panic attack known as “Fight or Flight”. Evolved to keep our ancestors safe in their prehistoric world, it now generates the unpleasant sensations we suffer when faced not with predators, but presentations.

People report a standard palette of reactions, some of which you will share:

  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Shallow breathing
  • Cold, clammy hands
  • Sweating
  • Blushing
  • Light-headedness
  • Trembling and loss of concentration
To manage nerves, it helps to understand their mechanics. Click on this link for an explanation of Fight or Flight on StressStop.com.

We can control nerves rather than be controlled by them. The most effective way to do this is through managing our breathing so that we help the heart to maintain its normal speed rather than hurtling off in a presentation rush.

During Fight or Flight, the heart accelerates to pump more oxygen around the body. Breathing meanwhile moves from stomach based, to chest based, becoming shallower in the process. So, just as the heart races to pump more oxygen, the lungs bring in less, making the heart beat faster to oxygenate vital muscles. As the heart’s oxygen demand outpaces supply, blood pressure increases. Sweating and looking flushed are common responses.

Slow the heart and those other reactions slow down with it; sweating stops and tell-tale blushing reduces. Cool the demand for oxygen and you cool overheating. The solution therefore; take a big deep breath.

Focus attention onto breathing out, completely emptying your lungs of stale air and creating capacity for deeper breaths in response.

Here is the process:

  • Slowly breath out for as long as you can
  • When you can breath out no more, push out three extra puffs, totally emptying the lungs
  • Roll back your shoulders, opening the chest cavity as wide as possible

…and…

  • Relax! Let your body naturally pull in the deepest breathe you’ve inhaled in weeks!

Two more like this, and you will be fully oxygenated. You might even notice a mild dizziness. Our brains burn oxygen, and you’ve hit yours with more oxygen than it’s had in months. Net result, head-rush!

Your heart meanwhile slows down, and as the heart relaxes, you relax.

You are back in control. This is how professional presenters remain calm in front of the biggest audiences.

Control your breathing, and presenting becomes significantly easier.

For more ideas on how to control presentation nerves, try the following Presenters’s Blog posts:

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