Getting nervous while doing a presentation? Just keep going

by Oliver Adria on 29/03/2012

One of the things that I notice a lot is that people tell me after the presentations: “I was soo nervous, it was embarassing! Everyone saw how I was making mistakes and how I was shaking!” – usually my response is: “Not really, it was hardly noticeable. I only saw it a little bit after you pointed it out to the audience.”

What I’m trying to say is: If you’re nervous, if you THINK you’re body or your voice is shaking due to this — just keep going! Most people will not notice this at all. Your mind often exaggerates your own mistakes — people won’t notice at all. And even if they did (which is a rather rare case), they will empathize with you and they will be understanding.

80-90% of the time the shaking voice is just in your head and I advise to just to continue with the presentation. In the few times where you are actually shaking a lot and it is having a big effect on the presentation, I suggest that you tell the audience that you need a few seconds, then take a deep breath (this will relax you a bit and make you more focussed), optionally a glass of water if it’s available. And then continue.

One of the worst things (I think) you can do is to say at the beginning of the presentation: “Sorry, I haven’t prepared that much, so let’s hope this goes well!” or “I just got this task a few days ago, so sorry if I’m not that good, but that’s the reason”.

Usually that’s a sign for me to the heck out of the room. If someone hasn’t prepared enough – they’re maybe just going to read off slides – why should I sacrifice my time? What added value will this presentation give me? Just give me the handouts and be done with it!

Remember: The audience is not out there to “get you”. They understand the pressure of being on-stage and they support you. So don’t think of them as the “opponent”, but rather a friend you want to share something with.

"I just wanted to say how much I appreciate your newsletter. Out of all the listserv type mail that I get, I always take the time to read yours." - Carole from USA

Join Carole and 1.700 readers and subscribe to the Rethink Presentations newsletter!