Top tips for overcoming the fear of presenting

Top tips for overcoming the fear of presenting

We all know the feeling, you stand up to speak, your palms get sweaty, your stomach’s full of butterflies, and your mind goes blank. What was it that you were going to open with again?

If you are like most people, the thought of speaking in front of an unknown group or audience leaves you feeling cold. In fact, public speaking is one of the highest ranking fears of a modern professional, so you are in good company.

It doesn’t matter if you are faced with an auditorium of hundreds or a small group of peers at a management meeting, the nerves can be exactly the same.

The key is to control your nervousness and use it to your advantage. I say control because   I don’t believe how experienced you are or become, you will always feel some anxiety, and  in fact you don’t want to be without that feeling entirely.

Some nervousness in these situations is actually good, it provides a heighten level of awareness and the adrenaline produced can give you that extra something to make the presentation really shine.

Top Tips for overcoming those fears

So, here are my top tips for overcoming the fear of presenting and harness that nervous energy to present in the best possible way.

1. Know your audience

Knowing who you are presenting to can really benefit you. The more you can tailor your presentation to the people listening, the more confident you can be that you are providing the right stuff. The more confident you are in your material, the more confident you will be yourself.

2. Know your material

Make sure you really know your material.

Again this is purely about feeling prepared and confident. You need to be sure that you know exactly what you are going to say, how and when you are going to say it. You don’t have to tell an audience everything you know on a subject, nor do you need to be an expert, but you do need to know your part.

3. Have a structure in mind

Having a simple structure to a presentation means that you will be able to stand up confident in the knowledge that you know where your presentation is going. It also means that you don’t have to remember your presentation parrot fashion, a common mistake made by many people. All that will do is make you sounds wooden and means that you are more likely to concentrate on your words, and less on engaging your audience (the real goal).

Having a planned structure to your presentation also means that if you go off topic at all, you are able to get right back on track quickly and seamlessly. You can stop to take questions and discuss alternative thoughts, safe in the knowledge that once dealt with you can go right back to the topic.

The easiest way to ensure that your audience also understand your structure is to tell them. Tell them what you are going to say, say it, and then recap (tell them what you have just told them).

4. Practice makes perfect

The more you practice anything the better you become, and presenting is no different. Whilst I don’t want to you to try to memorize ever word, I do want you to be very familiar with your material.

The more you practice, the more confident you will be, and the more natural your presentation will be. You want the audience to be fully engaged with you and the more natural you are, the better you will be at engaging.

5. Be prepared

Now that we have taken care of what we are going to say and how we are going to say it, we need to take care of the practical things.

  • Make sure you know where you are going
  • Know what you are going to wear
  • Get there early and get everything set up in plenty of time
  • Have any handouts prepared and ready to give out
  • Try to prepare responses to any questions you anticipate


6. Take time to get as calm as you can before hand

There are many techniques that people recommend to control anxiety and nervousness. Here are a few things that I find useful:

a. Practice controlled breathing.

When we are nervous, we we breath quickly and shallowly. Breathing deeply and slowly whilst getting lots of oxygen in your blood stream helps trick your body into thinking that it is calm.

b. Use visualisation techniques.

Try to imagine yourself delivering a fantastic presentation. The audience is engaged, interested and reacting positively to you. Keep this image in your mind and keep coming back to it. Then when you stand to present, put that image back into your mind, and make it happen.

c. Focus on your audience.

The more you focus on the audience, the less time you will have to concentrate on yourself.

d. Drink plenty of water.

A very simple but effective tip is to make sure you take plenty of sips of water as you present. This will stop your mouth becoming dry (a common symptom of nervousness) and let you speak more naturally.

e. Enjoy it

Just before you start, stop, smile and make eye contact with members of your audience.

Once you settle into your presentation, still make time to smile and make eye contact with your audience. Let them know what you are enjoying yourself and enjoy the positive non-verbal feedback they are giving you.

Please remember that no matter how practiced they are, and how experienced a speaker seems, even the very best get some kind of pre-performance nerves. Some nervousness is useful and good, and will make your presentation really go well. Please try to put some of the above in place, and if you would like more help, please do give me a call.

Contact me

For more on developing yourself, your staff and improving the profitability of your business, please do get in touch. You can email me at, use the contact page on my website or call me on 07736 831151. Follow me on Twitter at @jamesnathanxp, connect to me on LinkedIn, or follow me on Facebook.

I look forward to speaking soon.




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