Less Stress: Presentations

Having to make presentations is a common source of stress but with preparation, practice and the use of stress management techniques (such as breathing, relaxation and visualisation skills) you can greatly reduce the feelings of discomfort and start to enjoy public speaking!

My Top Tips for Public Speaking and Presentations

  • Know your subject!

If it’s a subject you’ve volunteered to speak on, perhaps to raise awareness of your business, remember it is already your passion- and when we speak about the things we love and feel connected to, our passion and conviction brings a natural animation to our voice and adds energy to our presentations. So if it’s a subject that you know and love, your enthusiasm will be infectious. Be aware though, that this can sometimes cause us to speed up as we rush to try and share everything we want to impart to our audience (it’s far better to leave them wanting more than exhaust them with machine-gun delivery and information overload!)

  • Rehearse, Rehearse,  Rehearse

“It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” Mark Twain

Afraid of forgetting your material? Rehearse. If you know your subject and you’ve rehearsed, you will feel far more confident. Most people experience nerves before making a presentation- that’s natural and it’s ‘positive stress’ (the kind that motivates us to do things) but usually, the minute you begin talking, your attention shifts to working through the topics you want to cover (that you’ve rehearsed) and you will find that the nerves will fade away as you start to engage with your audience

  • Visualise

In addition to rehearsing, visualise yourself doing well. Close your eyes and relax for 5 minutes, work through your body, gradually relaxing from your feet to your head. Then imagine yourself at the presentation. See yourself getting up to speak and working effortlessly through your presentation in a focussed, but calm way as you see people are enjoying the presentation and you are enjoying the sensation of feeling positive and proud afterwards.

  • Breathe

Practising some simple breathing techniques regularly will help to reduce nerves, steady your voice and calm your mind. If you practise regularly, your mind will make the association that you are relaxed, making it easier to use the techniques on the day. When we’re nervous we tend to breathe faster and experience shallow breathing and this can add to feelings of stress. One (of many techniques) you can try is to place your hand on your stomach and imagine breathing into your hand and, as you breathe into your hand, feel your stomach pushing your hand out as you breathe in. Repeat this slowly, 2 or 3 times maximum, and it will help to centre your breathing. This is just one simple exercise that helps to calm nerves –  sign up to my newsletter for more tips on Breathing for Less Stress

  • Remember

Most people want you to succeed! They want to take an interest in what you have to say as we all enjoy learning new things and extending our knowledge, so your audience will be on your side- willing you on. They are not the enemy(!)  Don’t be scared to look around at your audience- you will see a lot of interested faces (some may even smile) – if you are relaxed, your audience will sense it and they will relax too.

  • Slow down- rushing is stressful and also, your audience need time to absorb the information. Don’t be afraid to pause (it’s also a great trick for getting people to sit up and concentrate if you think their attention is wandering as they will unconsciously notice the change of tempo and re-focus on what you’re saying)
  • Be Comfortable

In your clothes (no tight collars, belts, pinching shoes, wardrobe malfunctions), in the space– can you get to see the venue beforehand? If not, ask for as much detail as you need to help you feel relaxed

  • Be You

Use a natural style. Maybe you feel more comfortable using a lectern as a prop or perhaps moving around the stage comes more naturally to you? Work with your instincts, they will serve you well.

Research:  Rehearse:  Breathe. . . Enjoy!

Do you have a top tip for making stress-free presentations?