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7 Steps to Control Presentation Nerves

How do you feel when you’re about to address an audience?

Does your stomach tighten?

Your palms moisten?

Your clothes stick?

Your throat becomes dry…breathing heavier…heart feeling as if it’s going to burst through your chest.

A dizziness takes over.

Thoughts become scrambled.

You forget everything.

Nervous or excited?

control presentation nerves training scotland girl hands face.

Some say they enjoy the experience and feel excited about taking the platform.

So how do your turn nervousness into excitement?

Simply, by following a plan – sticking to it – and repeating the plan until it becomes second nature.

Here’s how to turn your own nerves into excitement, your 7 tips for presentation success.

I’ll share with you an example from this week’s training to show how this works.

Step one: understand your audience

control presentation nerves training scotland boys men arms crossed.

What’s in it for them?

If you can work that out, you’re well on your way.

Our client, Miguel, a thought-leader in the travel industry, came to us with a largely unfocussed presentation on a concept called “halal travel”.

After short consideration, he was able to work out his audience.

Largely Muslim, largely based in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Travelling all over the world on business and pleasure.

Step two: clear and simple points

control presentation nerves training scotland man clutching beads simple points.

Work out the points you want to make that will resonate with your audience.

Use visual examples and illustrations so people can see what you mean.

When Miguel considered his audience, he was able to work out they were interested in three things.

(i) Their food and drink being “halal”, meaning adhering to the Koran.

(ii) Knowing where Mecca was at all times for prayers, even at 36,000 feet.

(iii) Having access to hotels and accommodation with halal-friendly amenities, such as beaches and swimming pools.

We’ve written more about making clear points here.

Step three: organise your points

control presentation nerves training scotland halal kitchen sign new york.

If you’ve structured your points correctly, the most important to the audience is right at the top.

The detail can wait until later.

All the information on bookings, fees and terms and restrictions will wait until the end of Miguel’s presentation.

The headlines come first.

Step four: rehearse

Practice your presentation several times, using your camera phone.

Hear how it sounds and see how it looks.

Get used to the complicated words and ideas – and work on making them simple.

Here’s how to make sure you’re ready.

Step five: make it colloquial, using informal language

control presentation nerves training scotland woman in pink headscarf.

Write your presentation as if talking to a friend.

You are interested in halal travel” becomes “you’re interested” and sentence-linkers such as “moreover” and “subsequently” disappear.

Miguel started talking to his audience as if talking to a friend on a Saturday evening.

Step six: enthuse

control presentation nerves training scotland man presenting ted talk enthusiasm.

Only if you look and sound enthusiastic will the audience share your enthusiasm.

Highlight important numbers, words and phrases to emphasise strongly.

The £10billion opportunity that halal travel presents – that needs particular emphasis.

Step seven: your call to action

Finish with a strong ask, so the audience knows what you want them to do next.

That could be an instruction, a question or a memorable message.

“My name’s Miguel – please come and seek me out over coffee – I’d love to talk to you further…”

Nervousness is a habit – so is excitement

control presentation nerves training scotland nervousness habit audience.

That seven-point plan is used in every presentation skills training course we run, mainly at our Glasgow studios.

We tell the story of a client in Australia who explained she was nervous before speaking to her bank’s conference for the first time.

She wanted to feel more confident.

“Tell yourself that you’re excited,”

I suggested to Cass.

When you go to bed the night before.

When you wake up on the morning of the event.

When you’re about to take the stage.

Then crucially when you welcome the audience, tell them how excited you are to be there.

Cass followed the suggestion – and emailed after the conference to say her talk had been very well received.

She told the audience she was excited and she felt excited to be there.

control presentation nerves training scotland glasgow 2014.

I told that story to Scotland’s Commonwealth athletes one week before Glasgow hosted the event in 2014.

I suggested – when asked by a TV reporter how they felt just one week before their home Games – that they answer that they were excited (rather than nervous).

I was delighted to see one member of my audience that day being asked the following day on TV how she felt.


she began cautiously, as I started offering encouragement through my TV screen at home.

“You’re excited!,”

I shouted.


she began again.

“I would normally say that I’m nervous….but I was at a conference at the weekend and I was told to say I was excited….”

Nervousness is a habit.

So is confidence.

Keep telling yourself you’re excited, and follow the tips above to brush up your presentation skills.

You’ll quickly become excited, and that’s your key to success.

Bill McFarlan is Executive Chairman of media training and presentation skills training firm Pink Elephant Communications in Glasgow.

You can view his full profile here.

Photo credit: tarikabdelmonem via / CC BY-NC-SA; 12th St David via / CC BY-NC-SA; ChrisGoldNY via / CC BY-NC; Manu Manohar Photography via / CC BY; mrehan via / CC BY-SA; 3dpete via / CC BY-ND; urban_data via / CC BY-SA; Daniel Dionne via / CC BY-SA; amenclinics_photos via / CC BY-SA; daniel0685 via / CC BY

28th October 2016 Featured in: Blog By:

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