Whether you are 10 years old or in your sixties, everyone suffers from nerves at some point. It could be before going on stage, during a big meeting or when you have to speak in front of your class. The important thing is not to let those nerves hold you back or stop you from doing something worthwhile.
Presentations are an essential part of any university course. You may be required to present alone, or in a group, but either way, you need to be able to talk clearly and with confidence in front of other people. If the thought of speaking in public scares you, don’t worry – we have come up with some tips to help you calm your nerves.
The more comfortable you feel with the material you have to present, the easier it will be to talk about it. Make sure you run through what you have to say several times in the days before the presentation. Ask some friends to listen and give you advice. If you’re working in a group, practice together more than once. However, in the 10 minutes before starting your presentation, take a break from practicing. You want to keep a clear head.
2. Watch other speeches
Go online and type in ‘great speeches’ and you will find plenty of videos of inspiring speakers. Watch a few and take note of what they do, how they connect with the audience, how they use their hands and their voice to communicate their point. Don’t be intimidated though – no one expects you to be Martin Luther King!
This is more of a general tip for helping with anxiety. Studies have shown that meditation can significantly reduce anxiety and depression, helping people to deal with feelings of panic and loss of control. If you haven’t done much meditating before, apps like Headspace can guide you and give you handy hints on how to use meditation to manage stress and nerves.
4. Stay hydrated
The first three tips are useful for the weeks before a presentation. The next three can help during the presentation itself. Remember to drink enough water. As well as improving our general wellbeing, drinking water stops our throats and mouths from getting dry – something that can happen when you feel nervous. Bring a bottle of water to the presentation, have a sip before you start and keep it nearby, so you can have some more if you want it.
When you feel nervous or anxious, your breathing tends to speed up and become shallower. This in turn means your brain is getting less oxygen and when that happens you can start to hyperventilate. Taking a deep breath, in through your nose and out through your mouth, can calm you and slow down your heart rate. It may seem obvious, but deep breathing is essential to remaining calm. Before you start your presentation, take a moment, inhale deeply and you will feel immediately better.
Yes, really. Smiling makes your audience feel comfortable and makes you look confident and attractive – but there is also a scientific reason to smile. It releases dopamine, endorphins and serotonin (all the happy chemicals in your brain) which relaxes your body, slows your heart rate and lowers blood pressure. Even if you don’t feel like it, smiling during a presentation will help you and those you are speaking to enjoy the whole experience much more.