There’s no doubt about it, the anticipation and nerves you feel before a presentation can be paralyzing. Several studies show public speaking is the number one fear among most people. But, knowing that doesn’t necessarily make it any better. So, how can you relax and reduce stress before a presentation or public speaking event?
I want to share some of my favorite ways to relax before a presentation. I recommend trying them all at least once. Then, you can pick what works best for you.
1. Build Your Confidence
If you have a fear of public speaking, then you might lack confidence going into your presentation. This can make it challenging to reduce your nerves or relax.
The good news is, there are a few things that you can do that will help you improve your confidence in preparation for your presentation!
Improve your presentation skills
Confidence shows while you are presenting, so it is definitely worthwhile to improve your presentation skills. This can include:
- Paying attention to your body language
- Maintaining eye contact
- Practicing what you are saying in your presentation
- Showing your personality
The best way to do this is to find some guinea pigs and practice your presentation with them. This will help it feel more realistic and give you a genuine way to practice your presentation. Plus, they can give you valuable feedback which will be helpful as you prepare.
If you don’t have anyone to present to, then consider practicing your presentation in front of a mirror or camera. You might feel a bit silly doing this, but trust me, your future self will thank you for it.
Do Lots Of Research
If you are not extremely confident or knowledgeable about the topic you will be presenting, then take time to do thorough research. The more information you have, the more confident and calm you will feel.
Prepare For Questions In Advance
You can drastically increase your confidence in advance by preparing for questions you might be asked. This includes practicing your answers or even rehearsing a response that you can say if you don’t have the answer to a particular question.
An example of a response could be, “I’m sorry I don’t have the answer to your question at this time, but I will touch base with you in the next 48 hours with the answer.”
2. Practice Positive Visualization
More often than not, when we visualize the moment that we will be giving our presentation, we are likely to be focused on everything that might go wrong.
The problem is, when you focus and visualize such a negative scenario, that is exactly how you will show up! You will bring all that negative energy with you. You will have already convinced yourself that what you visualized is true, and will happen. It’s no wonder you will feel so nervous.
Instead of focusing on and visualizing negative things, it is much more productive and helpful to focus on positive visualization. Here are some examples of positive visualization in a public speaking situation:
- A crowd who is excited, learning a lot, and taking notes from your speech.
- Colleagues who were confused about the project you were working on, but now have more clarity thanks to your presentation.
- You are being asked a question you don’t know the answer to, then responding with conviction and confidence that you don’t have the answer but would be happy to respond to them within 48 hours.
As you can see, there are so many positive things you can visualize ahead of your presentation, so focus on those things instead.
3. Transform Your Energy
Take it from me, it is completely normal to experience presentation anxiety, nervousness, and even fear leading up to any kind of public speaking event you have to do. Almost every human experiences it. Even people who present regularly have openly shared that they get nervous before stepping out on stage or into a room filled with their colleagues, classmates, etc.
While you may not have the power to get rid of your feelings of nervousness, you can transform your nervous energy into something else, such as enthusiastic energy, confident energy, etc.
Doing this will not get rid of your nerves completely, but it will help you to show up for your presentation in a more positive way.
4. Learn Relaxation Exercises
When we feel anxiety and nervousness, it is normal for our bodies and muscles to tense. Thanks to our fight-or-flight response, we may perceive public speaking as dangerous. To calm your nerves, one of the best things you can do is a relaxation exercise.
There are many types of relaxation exercises to choose from. Make sure you try each of them once or twice, and then pick your favorites. You can do these exercises to reduce your nerves before a presentation, and you might even be able to do some during the presentation itself!
If you are overly worried about how your presentation will go, then I would highly recommend trying meditation.
Meditation is the basic practice of paying attention only to the present moment, seeing thoughts as they come, and then releasing them without judgment.
A common misconception about meditation is that you can’t have any negative thoughts. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
What meditation teaches you to do is to release that negative thought and focus on the present moment instead. This will help you to stay calm and grounded as opposed to dwelling on those negative thoughts and putting yourself into a tailspin over them. There are plenty of free meditations online to choose from.
As mentioned previously, when you are experiencing nervousness, fear, etc., it’s normal for your body to tense up. This can also include holding our breath or breathing too fast.
One way that you can calm down and relax your body at the same time is to practice deep breathing exercises. Get focused on inhaling, holding that breath for a moment, and then releasing it. Do this over and over until your body and muscles have relaxed.
When you start to feel extreme nervousness or anxiety, it is all too easy to get lost in these feelings. This is where grounding exercises can be incredibly helpful to calm yourself down.
There are a couple of grounding techniques that you can try. All of them are very similar, so it’s just a matter of finding which one works best for you.
- The first grounding exercise is to identify one thing you can see, hear, touch/feel, smell, and taste.
- The second grounding exercise is the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique. Here, you identify 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
- The third exercise is to think about and focus on each part of your body. Start at your head and work your way down to your toes. Try and subtly move that body part as you get to it if you are able.
- The last technique is to inhale for 3 seconds, hold your breath for 3 seconds, and then exhale for 3 seconds.
Practicing mindfulness will benefit you in many different ways – not just before a presentation!
5. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Another way to manage your nerves is to ensure you get a good night’s sleep before your presentation.
Good quality sleep is an extremely effective method for reducing your cortisol levels. This can help reduce stress on the day of the presentation.
Sleep also affects your cognitive thinking. The better quality of sleep that you get, the better you will be able to process information, hold attention, speak with confidence, etc. So, by getting a solid 7 – 8 hours of sleep, you will be able to show up for that presentation with good energy, a good mood, reduced stress, and high cognitive thinking.
6. Exercise In The Morning, Or Before Your Presentation
Exercise is known to release feel-good endorphins which can help you to relax ahead of your presentation. So, try and squeeze in some exercise, either in the morning or even the night before.
If you have a regular workout routine, then I recommend sticking to that regime.
However, if you don’t exercise often but want to try it to reduce stress, then listen to your body. Try doing some cardio or strength training and just see what feels good for you at the moment. Even light stretching can help calm your nerves.
Remember, this isn’t necessarily about doing a killer workout. It’s about releasing endorphins to reduce your cortisol levels to calm yourself down.
7. Dress For Success
A simple, yet powerful tip is to dress for success on the day of your event. Doing this can help you feel confident and empowered. This is the energy you want to bring to your presentation!
Tip – if you will be away from your home all day, consider bringing a change of clothes that you can change into at the appropriate time after your presentation is complete. This will also help you relax and calm down after the presentation.
8. Be Mindful Of What You Eat & Drink
Did you know that you can use food strategically to help you reduce nervousness and anxiety on the day of your presentation?
There are certain food and drinks that are known to increase worry and stress, so by avoiding those foods, you will be able to maintain a more calm state of mind.
For drinks, try only drinking water, herbal teas, etc. You want to avoid beverages with sugar, caffeine, and alcohol as much as possible as these things are likely to increase your feelings of nervousness.
When it comes to the food you eat, try focusing on nutrient-rich foods.
9. Arrive Early
Nothing will stress you out more than panicking about being late. Plan to arrive early to your presentation to reduce nerves.
Once you arrive, you can give your mind and body time to relax. You can use this time to walk around, meditate, or practice your presentation.
10. Test The Technology
As much as we love and rely on technology, there is always the possibility that something could go wrong. If you are a worrier, then this could be something that causes you a lot of stress before your presentation begins.
So, to calm yourself down and have some piece of mind, test the technology in advance. Make sure everything is working correctly. Test how easy it is for you to move through your presentation ahead of time. It will make all the difference when it’s time to present in front of a large group.
11. Adjust To Your Surroundings
If you will be giving a presentation in a venue or place you are not familiar with, this can also increase feelings of nervousness. So, take some time to adjust to your surroundings. This is definitely a good reason to arrive early if you can. Get to know the area, the layout of the room, and where you will be presenting.
12. Pick A Focus Spot In The Room
During your presentation, you might feel some anxiety bubbling up inside of you. A helpful way to ground yourself at the moment is by focusing on a particular spot in the room. This spot can remind you to take a pause, inhale a deep breath, and try to ground yourself as quickly as possible.
I recommend picking out your focus spot once you see the room where you will be speaking. It can be a certain chair, a spot on the wall, an item in the room, etc.
13. Meet and Greet
It’s completely normal for our fear and anxiety to be amplified if we don’t know the people we will be speaking to. This is especially true if you struggle with social anxiety.
Not only is there the fear of not knowing these people and making a mistake in front of them, but we can also make preconceived notions about the people based on our fears. This could include things like “these people are mean“, or “these people will judge me“.
This is not a great way to calm yourself down before you speak.
Instead, take some time to meet these people. By humanizing them and separating facts from your thoughts, you will be so much more at ease speaking to them which will help you calm down.
14. Drink Plenty Of Water
In addition to drinking plenty of water before, make sure you also have water that you can drink during the presentation as well.
Then, make sure you are taking regular pauses to drink that water throughout the presentation. Not only is water good for you, but it can also help to clear your throat, give you a moment to take a deep breath, and relax your muscles. Be sure to use the bathroom before your presentation!
15. When In Doubt, Smile
Lastly, when in doubt, smile. When you smile, your body releases several feel-good hormones that can reduce your stress. So, even if you don’t necessarily feel like smiling, make yourself smile.
Plus, not only will this help you, but it will help the people listening to you as well. Your smile can help them feel at ease which can improve the overall energy in the room.
I hope that these tips and strategies will help you stay calm for your next speaking event or presentation.
I know firsthand how overwhelming it can be to do these things. But if you follow each of these tips and give yourself compassion and grace, then you will be able to get through it so much easier. Don’t forget to check out these affirmations to give you a boost of confidence as well!