Are you making a pitch to an angel investor, or presenting your sales figures to a demanding boss? You know the stakes are high and you want to do well—but this desire to succeed can also make you too nervous to think. Here are some ways to stay calm before making a big presentation.
Understand your fears
Your fears are normal. What you feel as anxiety (increased heart rate, jitteriness) is really a state of hyper-alertness as your body recognizes a challenge and puts all its energy into what it perceives as a dangerous situation. Just think of a wild animal nervously checking out its surroundings when it smells a predator! (If you’re naturally shy and self-conscious, read our article on how to talk with ease).
Minimize the dangers
Tell yourself that you are not, as your body thinks, fighting for your life in a wild jungle. Think about other situations where you’ve succeeded. Repeat to yourself how you’ve prepared for this moment, and have the skills and knowledge to do well. Remind yourself that your audience does not want you to fail, and is in fact probably too distracted or self absorbed to really think about how to destroy you.
Instead of worrying about the presentation, practice. Rehearse the slides and think of a script for the first three minutes when the tension and anxiety is at its peak. Think about what they might ask or what most concerns them and have a short answer ready.
Try rehearsing backwards
You know how to get through slides 1 to 15 but see if you can go through it from 15 to 1. Practicing in a different order can help you really master the subject matter and prepares you in the even that the client or boss asks you to skip to another slide.
Know the key points
Just in case a meeting is delayed, the presentation time is shortened, or your client is just in a hurry, know how to drastically shorten your speech to just 5 key points.
See yourself succeed
Now that you’ve prepared for all worst case scenarios then you may feel calmer—instead of thinking ‘What if?’ you now have a back up plan to turn to in case things go wrong. Now let the worry go and put all your imagination into visualizing your success. See yourself looking calm and confident in front of everyone, your voice firm and your smile sincere.