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  • Writer's pictureLiza Engel

Conquering Nervousness in Presentations - A Mindful Approach

Public speaking anxiety, often manifested as stage fright, is a common challenge that many individuals face. It's not just about the fear of being judged or making a mistake; it's also about the innate desire to appear confident and composed. Did anyone ever tell you to imagine the audience naked or fake it until you make it? Thank goodness there is now better advice out there. Here is a collection of tools that you can use to help calm your nerves and deliver your best.

The key to overcoming this nervousness lies in a strategic approach, incorporating mindfulness and practical steps. This blog post outlines a series of actionable tips, categorized into phases: from the moment you learn you'll be presenting, through the preparation period, and right up to the final minutes before your presentation. These tips should be combined with the foundation of your work, including profiling your audience, good storytelling and impactful presenting.

Photo by Jodie Cook on Unsplash

Upon Learning that You Will Present:

  1. Acceptance and Mindfulness: Initially, accept your feelings of nervousness. It's a natural response. Acknowledge these emotions without judgment; nervousness and excitement are closer to each other than you might think. Mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques can be beneficial, like focusing on your breath.

  2. Visualization: Start by visualizing a successful presentation. Picture yourself speaking confidently. This positive mental imagery sets a foundation for actual performance. I would even go as far as to recommend that you imagine the worst fear, like your slides not working, and envision how gracefully you will overcome that, too. "Well, my slides have taken a quick coffee break, but don't worry, I'm still here!" Remember, the key is to stay calm, maintain your sense of humour, and confidently continue with your presentation. That is what matters most to your audience, not your slides.

  3. Early Planning: Begin structuring your presentation early and do not procrastinate. A well-organized talk can boost your confidence. Outline your main points and start thinking about how to communicate them effectively. Think about your hook and closing statements and how you will connect to your audience. All you need to know for now is your first next step, the next and then repeat.

During the Preparation Period:

  1. Practice and Rehearse: Regular practice is crucial, and I don't just mean in your head. You need to speak it out loud. Rehearse your presentation multiple times. If possible, simulate the environment where you'll present and record your voice or even take a video of yourself. Consider using a tool such as

  2. Seek Feedback: Practice with friends or family and ask for constructive feedback. This improves your presentation and helps you get accustomed to an audience. My nine-year-old daughter is particularly good at giving me feedback on body language (you move around too much, Mom) and filler words (um, really).

  3. Mindful Breathing Exercises (4 point breath): Incorporate deep breathing exercises into your daily routine. Deep, controlled breaths can reduce stress levels significantly. Try inhaling for a count of four, holding for four, exhaling for at least 4 and holding again for four and repeat this four times.

  4. Positive Affirmations: Use positive affirmations to reinforce your self-confidence. Phrases like "I am capable and prepared" can be powerful. Those cute videos on social media of 3-year-olds talking to themselves in the mirror do work. Try it. You feel silly at first, but then give yourself a high-five in the mirror, and I promise it will make you smile, and the dopamine will make you feel even better.

Hours and Minutes Before the Presentation:

  1. Mindful Meditation: Spend a few minutes meditating, focusing solely on your breath. This can center your thoughts and calm your nerves.

  2. Physical Exercise: If time allows, engage in a brief physical activity, like a walk. Exercise releases endorphins, which naturally combat stress.

  3. Final Review: Do a quick run-through of your main points. This ensures the information is fresh in your mind.

  4. Stay Hydrated and Nourished: Drink water and have a light, nutritious meal. Avoiding hunger or dehydration is crucial in maintaining focus and energy. Some of the worst things you can do is skip a meal or eat a heavy meal.

  5. Power Pose: Before you step onto the stage, do a power pose in private. Standing in a posture of confidence, even for two minutes, can boost feelings of power and assurance. Alternatively, you can sing or dance to your power song to give your fright a good fight, or at least giver yourself a high-five.

These are some of the many things you can do to better deal with presentation nervousness or excitement. This multifaceted approach combines mental preparation, practical rehearsal, and mindfulness practices.

You can significantly reduce your anxiety by accepting and understanding your fears, practising regularly, engaging in mindfulness exercises like deep breathing and meditation, and preparing your body through nutrition and exercise.

Confidence in presenting is a skill that can be developed over time, and like any skill, it requires regular practice combined with patience and persistence. You got this!

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