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Home Blog Presentation Skills Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Presentation?

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Presentation?


Have you ever been asked to give a presentation, or lead on a pitch, and felt that stomach-wrenching fear at the mere thought? Feeling nervous before a presentation is perfectly normal, even for people who make presentations regularly, so the first thing to do is stop beating yourself up about it. If you recognise that you're not alone in suffering nerves, you can take positive steps to numb their effects and control them.

We love this quote from Edmund Blackadder: "It started badly, it tailed off in the middle and the less said about the end the better", and often this is how we feel our presentations or pitches will go because our nerves are taking over. But what to do about those pesky nerves? Do you remember the Dr Pepper adverts? The ones with the strap line "What's the worst that could happen?"? Well stop for a moment and think about it, what really is the worst that could happen? You could forget all your words, your clothes could all fall off and you could lose your job... now think of the best that could happen. You'll remember it all, make them laugh and win loads of new clients... are either of these instances really likely to occur? Probably not, so in reality what will happen lies somewhere in between the worst and best. Which is ok, isn't it?

We don't just know this from our experience; it's backed up by lots of research. Try practicing some resilience techniques, like those from Dr. Karen Reivich, co-director of the Penn Resiliency Project and a research associate in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. They can be very useful in helping control your nerves. Gen up on Optimistic Thinking by Martin Seligman, who is considered the founder of positive psychology, which is of course right up our street.

Another little trick if something does go wrong, such as you realise you've missed a bit out, remember that only you will know. Your audience won't suspect a thing, they don't know what's supposed to happen and you can always try to pop the bit you missed in later, no harm done and nobody any the wiser.

If the situation is appropriate, try starting with a joke or a bit of humour. If you can start the audience laughing before getting into more serious matters, that will dissolve much of your fear and open their minds up too. This is supported by Barbara L. Fredrickson's Broaden and Build theory, which you can read more about here.

Try talking to the audience before you speak. If you don't know them already, have a chat with a few people beforehand. This allows you to feel a bit of extra familiarity with the audience and can help the situation feel less stiff and formal.

Memorise your narrative, rather than your presentation. Try to get to the point where if someone said to you "what are the 5 key points you're making?" you could answer in 30 seconds. If you can do that, you know your presentation well and that's great.

There are loads more tips we could give you so if you'd like to learn more, or find out about attending our Perfect Pitch workshops, give us a call.

Presentation Skills


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