Public speaking and presenting often ends up being a necessary component of many professions, from sales to accounting to product design.
Even creative careers such as screenwriting and producing can require some high-level pitching that requires you to do your best to make an argument for an idea as concisely as possible while also persuading others to support the idea.
But as many of us know, the act of speaking to a group of people can come with some serious anxieties and worries.
We can all think back to our school days, when oral presentations were required for many different classes.
Unfortunately, many instructors failed to offer any real insights when it came to remaining confident and calm during a presentation.
It almost seems as if the assumption was that if students did enough presentations in various classes, they would simply become used to the experience.
For many people, this method didn’t work so well.
But don’t worry, we’re here to help. Here’s how to get rid of nerves when presenting, including some ways to prepare that will boost your confidence.
Practice as Much as Possible
This tip may not come across as especially insightful, but it holds steady as one of the most important things you can do to prevent feelings of nervousness before and during presentations in the workplace.
You need to practice your presentation, plain and simple. But the way your practice is entirely up to you.
Some people find it helpful to write up a kind of loose script to give an idea of what needs to be communicated during a presentation.
We do not recommend writing a script that requires memorization of exact phrases and wordings. This will only make you more nervous when you stand up in front of a crowd.
Instead, consider writing up some note cards that have broad topics and a few specific details.
The structure of your presentation is also very important. If you won’t be using presentation software such as PowerPoint, then you should create a basic outline of topics and information.
Backtracking and offering additional info on a subject you mentioned five minutes before will appear unprofessional.
If you’re nervous about speaking in front of many people, gather a few friends or family members in a room and go through your presentation, looking around to different people every few lines.
This is also a great chance to ask for honest feedback from your practice audience. Do you seem outwardly nervous? Are you speaking too quietly? Are you speaking too quickly?
Your friends will be able to notice small details that you wouldn’t be able to notice yourself.
Make it Conversational
Your specific speaking style during a presentation should match the content itself.
If the subject matter is very serious, for example, you should refrain from making jokes or striking an especially casual tone with your audience.
Instead, focus on the matter at hand and convey as much information as possible.
But in the case of most workplace presentations, you can take some liberties with your delivery style.
We highly recommend treating the presentation as a conversation, one where you’re going to do all the talking.
Striking a conversational tone can be a great way to cut down on nervous feelings and connect with your audience on a more personal level.
Speak honestly, without any hint of artifice or rigid formality.
For a great example of this presentation style, check out this Dave Eggers TED talk. The subject matter is completely serious, but he’s able to sound casual and friendly while speaking.
And this style allows him to make use of his natural sense of humor and get his audience to pay closer attention to what he’s saying.
Breathing exercises are one of the best ways to calm your nerves, in just about any situation. And this method works incredibly well in a workplace setting.
If possible, find a place outside of the office where it’s quiet and calm. A hallway may work well, or you may even want to go and sit in your car during your lunch break.
Breathe in slowly, hold your breath for a few seconds, then slowly exhale. Repeat this process for a few minutes at a time.
You’ll quickly start to notice that you feel much calmer, and you may even be reminded of your life outside of work.
This is your moment to remind yourself that you’ve prepared adequately and that you’re ready to share your ideas with others.
It’s also important to work too hard in the run-up to a presentation.
Imagine You’re Talking to One Person
Even though you should make eye contact with different audience members throughout the presentation, in your mind you should imagine that you’re speaking with just one person.
You may even want to think of a specific friend or family member you’re close to.
For one, this can have a calming effect on your overall mood, but it may also help you to maintain an easygoing tone.
Your audience will respond much more positively to your presentation if they perceive that you are making a genuine effort to share your ideas with them.
Watch the Pros at Work
Above all else, an excellent way to prepare for your presentations and remain calm during your talks is to observe other successful presenters.
Maybe some of your co-workers are talented public speakers and regularly deliver engaging presentations in the workplace.
Instead of feeling envious of their presentation skills, start to pay attention to the small details of their delivery that help make their talks enjoyable.
You may even want to speak with them about some tips for staying calm before and during presentations in the office.
Then, of course, you may want to turn to some successful public speakers from the world at large. Chances are you already enjoy hearing certain musicians, motivational speakers, or artists talk at length.
What about them helps gain people’s’ attention? How does their body language align or misalign with their overall message? Do they take many pauses between sentences or ideas?
Just watching other speakers present information can be a great way to passively absorb some basic skills.
By the time you need to present, you’ll feel much more relaxed and ready to make the information the star of the show.