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Nine ways to calm nerves before a presentation

Public speaking is described as one of the most common phobias around. According to a study, 75% of Americans suffer from anxiety in relation to public speaking, which means that three out of four people would refrain from speaking in public. As a matter of fact, even seasoned veterans may experience speech nervousness. Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Prince Harry, Jennifer Aniston, and Adele are few of the examples of celebrities who feel anxious when facing a crowd. Here are some of the tops to overcome this phobia:

Practice

Rehearsing is the biggest key to become a confident speaker. Having an audience of trusted reviewers to give feedback is the most effective way to enhance your presentation skills and feel more confident in front of the crowd. You may also recording yourself and play back the file to identify and weaknesses in your speech.

Drink some water

High anxiety levels can cause dry mouth, which can make it extremely difficult to communicate effectively. Keeping a water bottle along with you when presenting can help you stay hydrated.

Positive visualization

Imagine yourself going on a stage and successfully sharing your message across the audience and receiving a good response from them.. Studies have proved that exercising positive visualization can be highly effective to calm our nerves and boost your confidence.

You may well think of some positive outcomes that can happen but if you are worrying you are almost certainly thinking of a whole range of things that can go wrong. Creating these thoughts in your imagination is like experiencing them in reality and you unconsciously create the exact reaction that you would have if these things really did occur.

Focusing on the best outcome that can happen, or on a range of possible positive outcomes can reduce your anxiety. Try asking yourself the simple question ‘What would I like to happen?’  Just ask yourself that question and imagine what it would be like if that were to happen. Maybe you could create a picture in your mind, or you can imagine what things you would say to yourself and how you would feel. You could also try writing down a description of that outcome. One advantage of doing this is that you can read it back to yourself from time to time if you get anxious again in the future.

Deep breaths

Adrenaline causes breathing to become shallow. Holding the breath in anticipation of what will follow only leads to increase in stress levels. Breathing exercises are a proven method to relax as they provide oxygen to the brain, which allows the body to remain calm and composed.

Some of us will recognise that awful moment when you are standing in front of a group of people and your mind just goes blank. The chances are, if you took a moment to notice, you are probably holding your breath. In fact if you hold your breath right now and try and think, you may find not much comes in! By starving our brain of oxygen, we are effectively preventing ourselves from thinking. If you think of the concept that a new thought = a new breath, thoughts will flood in and the deeper the breath the clearer the message to our subconscious that we are relaxed and confident.

Watch for the adrenaline to show up and don’t let it surprise you. Determine how adrenaline manifests for you—butterflies, palpitations or racing thoughts—and begin to expect these symptoms as a natural prelude to speaking. As soon as the symptoms show up, say to yourself, “Oh, good. My MOJO is here!” It’s true!  When you harness adrenaline, you command the room. Why would you want to resist this power? The challenge is not overcoming nervousness, it is turning fear into energy before you begin over-thinking the process.

Practice body language

Standing straight and holding a strong physical pose makes one feel more confident and creates a sense of self-assurance. Practicing confident body language is an effective way to calm nerves and reduce the levels of anxiety. When your body exhibits confidence in its posture, the mind follows the suit. Also, make sure to maintain a smile during a presentation as it exhibits confidence and enthusiasm.

Exercise

According to researchers, exercise can ease nervousness and anxiety by releasing endorphins, the feel-good chemicals in the brain. Exercise also increases body temperature, which causes an all-over calming effect. It helps you to reduce anxiety levels and makes you feel more confident.

Arrive early

Arriving early will give you enough time to settle down before the talk as well as adjust to the environment. Spending a certain time in the actual presentation room and practicing there will also increase your comfort level.

Know your topic

Knowing and understanding your topic minimises fear. Your audience is there to listen to the message you want to impart. Having a good command on the subject that you are about to speak will enable you to communicate more effectively, allowing you to remain calm during the presentation.

Practice the pause

Anxiety causes people to talk at a much faster rate than they actually do. A good practice is to rehearse pauses in your speech, perhaps to emphasise key messages. Training your mind automatically reminds you to slow down during the presentation and allows the audience time to process the material effectively.

You cannot conquer fear without accepting your fear. Anxiety only intensifies when one keeps wondering if others can notice their apprehension. With these tips, transform your nervous energy into positive enthusiasm.

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Nick Marr
 

Nick Marr is an author, speaker, digital marketing executive and coach with a passion for inspirational leadership. He started his coaching career as a police officer helping to deliver a change to senior officer leadership styles. He also represented minority police officers in various roles throughout his 20 year career. His move into business saw him as founder of one of the first online estate agencies in the UK. He has worked as Chief Marketing Officer and Vice President of Sales for Digital Marketing organisations. He once created a social media viral that went global just by using his head... His innovation in business led to him being featured in the Financial Times and appearances on BBC TV.