How to Prepare for a Presentation so You're NOT Nervous
This is the best way I’ve found to systematically help you reduce your nervousness and anxiety while preparing for and delivering a presentation.
I’m going to assume for this email that you have ample time to prepare for a presentation, we will talk about impromptu presentations next time.
Nervousness and anxiety comes from 3 things:
1) Expectations - If your goal is to speak in a way where everyone loves you, showers you with praise, and sing your praises for every word you speak. Your expectations are too high. You will be disappointed even if you do exceptionally well. Expect yourself to prepare, and deliver. That’s it. What comes of it, comes of it.
Paradoxically. To perform better, your expectations need to be lower.
Lower expectations = lower pressure = better performance = more praise. Higher expectations = higher pressure = worse performance = less praise.
2) Preparation - If you don’t prepare, you won’t do well, and you’ll underperform, and disappoint yourself. You won’t feel certain in your own abilities and you will feel nervous. This is the only thing you can control, so take advantage of it.
3) Perception - How you see the world is based on how you see yourself. There are terrible public speakers who have great confidence in front of people. Why? Because they see others as being friendly and supportive, not enemies and people out to get them.
No amount of public speaking skills will help you if your mind doesn’t let you see how well you do.
I’m going to divide this into two stages:
A) Before Presentation
You’ve been told you have to present a week from now.
Here’s what you do to maximize your chances of doing well.
1) Put the slide deck together as early as you possible can.
Minutes Leading up to the presentation.
2) Once the slides are put together, I want you not to READ the information in your head. I want you to say the words out loud as if you’re presenting it.
3) Do this start to finish 3 times - you’ll inevitably find areas that you can’t speak to that well, and words or slides that don’t sound quite right. You then make adjustments to your slides or how you say it accordingly.
4) Rule of 10: NEVER go to a presentation without having said it out loud, start to finish, at least 10 times. If there is one thing you get from this email, it is this. I guarantee you, if you just do this, your nervousness will reduce by 500%.
5) On your slides, have enough information to keep you on track, so you know what you’re talking about, but not so much information that people can read the whole thing themselves and they’re waiting for you to read it.
You can have points up on the screen, and explain them yourself. This is significantly better than using notes because notes create pressure to remember, hit specific details, and not forget.
If something is so important that it must be mentioned, put it on the slide.
6) This is what your ideal practice would look like
Day 1-2: Put slides together
Day 3-4: Say it out loud, find errors, fix
Day 5-7: Rehearse out loud over and over again.
Always remember: Rehearse at least ONE time on the DAY of the presentation.
Minutes Leading Up to the Presentation
1) Warm Up: Early in the day, do one full walkthrough of your presentation out loud.
2) Then, say the first 1-5 minutes of the presentation out loud leading up to the presentation (if you have time.) Then, time to let go.
3) This is critical: Do NOT change anything in your presentation. Do not think of what you’ll say on slide 17. Do not give yourself instructions in anyway.
You’ve done the practice, now you need to trust yourself to be able to deliver what you’ve practiced. The more you interfere, the worse it will be.
This is why we see people practice for days ahead of time, know their presentation inside out, but then last minute they keep reminding themselves not to forget certain details …. sure enough, they forget.
4) You’re 5 minutes from the presentation, you’re feeling nervous - what do you do?
i) Remind yourself that this is not a bad thing, this is the expected response. Do not be surprised by this.
If you think “Oh gosh it’s happening again! Why is this happening!” You will panic and forget everything to focus on the panic.
ii) When you hear thoughts like “What if you forget!” “What if you don’t do well!” - Note in your head that this is your inner critic trying to sabotage you. Don’t fall for it's tricks.
iii) Get out of your head, into your body. Remember: You can’t out think your nervousness or anxiety, you will start arguing with yourself in your head, trying to rationalize it, this will only make it worse.
Instead, get out of the mind entirely. This can be done by bringing your attention to:
1) Your breath
2) Your toes moving
3) Your fingers rubbing against each other etc.
This will distract your conscious mind until it’s time to present.
Now, it’s time to start presenting.
Anchor yourself with the word ‘slow.’
Slow your speech
Slow your breathing
Slow your movement.
Let it all go and let it happen.
That’s all you need.
Hope this was helpful.