Tips For Keeping Your Cool Before Your Presentation

The physical symptoms of public speaking nerves can be annoying, even distressing at times. But running that adrenalin will give you energy and give energy to your speech. You just need to control the symptoms. Here are 5 effective ways to calm them down and keep your cool before your presentations.

1. Stretch to relax. Rise on your toes and reach for the ceiling, with your head back. Tighten your muscles from legs up through abdomen, and then release. Relax the neck and shoulder muscles, letting your head loll on your neck in different directions.

2. Breathe to relax. Stand erect, but relaxed and balanced. Inhale while silently counting to five. Hold the breath for five counts, then exhale for five – all breathing is through the mouth. Your diaphragm should move, but your chest should not expand. You can gradually increase the number of counts for each breath to 10.

3. Relax your Jaw. Let your head loll forward. As you raise it, keep your jaw relaxed. Let it hang open, and smile to yourself at how silly it feels.

4. Ground yourself. Be aware of standing with your feet firmly planted, relaxed, but firmly stable. Be aware of the strength of that grounding, and the peace it brings.

5. Relax your throat. Yawn…. This is how your throat needs to be to speak well – open, and relaxed.

Keep relaxing the muscles throughout your body, your jaw, neck and throat until you walk to the presentation area. Then smile! and begin.

© Bronwyn Ritchie. If you would like to use this article, you have permission to use it only in full, and only with the following Resource box attached.

How to Present Successfully

Delivering a presentation requires a lot of confidence, but the whole process is much smoother if you prepare well. There are several things you can do to make sure your presentation runs smoothly and has the effect you wish.

Firstly, think about the aim of your presentation. Do you want to provide information, or do you want to change people’s opinion of something? Are you presenting to a group of workers or to a group of board members? The aim of your presentation and your audience should influence how you present your information. For example, board members may just want concise facts and figures, whereas workers may need a more motivational presentation filled with stories and jokes.

A good point to remember is that no-one likes to sit through a boring speech. This means that dozens of powerpoint slides filled with text are out of the question, and try not to just read off a screen. If you can, memorise what you’re going to talk about or use some bullet points to help you keep talking. If your presentation sounds natural and you can modulate your voice, change your tone and make eye contact with members of the audience, you will keep them interested.

Practice really is key to giving a good presentation. It allows you to learn your subject well and prepares you for many eventualities. What do you do if someone asks a question during your talk? The more you practice the more confident you will sound because the presentation will become automatic. This allows you to focus more on being a good presenter on stage, on projecting your voice and thinking about your breathing.

Using props during a presentation is a great way to keep the audience interested. Pictures, flip-charts and cartoons give them something to look at and somewhere new to direct their attention. They can also help to emphasise your point and make what you’ve said more memorable.

Finally, make sure that you look the part on the day. Some presentations, for example to students, are informal and it’s OK to dress casually as the audience expects this. A presentation to board members on the other hand probably requires a suit. If you work in a creative industry a suit might look a little out of place. Again, think about your audience and the points you’re trying to get across and dress accordingly.

Is Alcohol a Good Idea Before Your Presentation?

Imagine you have been invited as the after dinner speaker at a local club or organization and they are serving wine with the meal. Should you partake? I would tell you to stick to water or coffee or tea. While you may find one alcoholic drink or one glass of wine relaxing and a good means of settling your nerves, I beg to differ.

Some years ago, I was invited to speak to a group of female insurance agents at their monthly meeting. Wine was being served with the meal. I had one glass. Admittedly, I drink very little alcohol but I could not imagine that one glass of wine would hurt.

Hurt it did because I lost my edge. When I rose to speak, I was overly confident and I experienced no nervousness. Prior to that engagement and in all the others that have followed, I experience nervousness. I like nervousness; I want you, as the public speaker, nervous because if you aren’t nervous, then I am concerned.

You can never be that confident in a live performance – that one glass of wine gave me a confidence I did not deserve and I did not want. I was not as focused and I lost my passion for my topic because the adrenaline was not rushing to do its job. While I count on nervousness to give me an edge, to help take my presentation to a whole new level, the secret in dealing with it is learning how to control it. When you are in control of your nervousness, you will discover how to let it work for you and not against you.

Later in my career, I was invited to speak to the executives at Labatt’s Beer in London, Ontario. I was offered a beer to drink during my presentation. (That was a first!) I declined, however, remembering well my experience with the insurance women.

Having that edge in public speaking, experiencing the rush of adrenaline is truly a blessing when facing an audience. Avoid the alcohol so to keep that edge. Trust me, your audience will appreciate your delivery so much more so.