Strong starts to nail nerves in public speaking

By Simon Hall.

Simon giving a presentation

If you suffer from nerves when presenting, this is a great way to ease them and so deliver a storming talk…

When I’m teaching public speaking and presenting, one of the most common questions is:

– How can I control my nerves?

There are lots of techniques to try. 

Being my usual, helpful self (ahem!), here's a quick rundown of the most effective:


Visualisation in public speaking

Before the audience arrive, work out where you’re going to stand.

Then imagine delivering your talk.

The nodding, the smiles, the laughter, as each point you make hits home.

Your command of the subject and the crowd.

This is often used by sportsmen and women, and can work well in enhancing confidence and easing nerves.


The early arrival for a presentation

If you know you’re in the right place, well ahead of time, you'll immediately feel more relaxed. 

This is such an easy win.

Yet I’m forever, amazed by how many people have a big presentation to deliver…

And turn up with only minutes to spare.

Being early means you know the slideshow will work, and you can run through the visualisation trick, above.


Slow down your presentation pace

This is also so simple, but so effective.

Nerves tend to make you speed up, to get this scary moment over and done with ASAP.

Don’t let them.

Slow down, maybe 10 or 15% less than your usual speaking rate.

The result will be more authority, better voice projection, and breathing more deeply…

Which can really help to calm the nerves when you’re presenting.


And so to the golden secret of nailing the nerves in public speaking and presentations.

All of the above tips work, but, in the true showbiz tradition of leaving the best until last…

Here’s my absolute favourite:


Starting strong to nail the nerves in public speaking and presentations

There's little like knowing you have a killer opening line to enhance your confidence.

Which, in turn, helps to calm the nerves when you’re presenting.


Deliver that line with power and authority, and you can see the audience sit up and listen.

They’re hooked, engaged, and impressed from the start…

Which gives you confidence, encouragement, and momentum for the rest of the talk.


In fact, I’d go so far as to say:

If you get your opening line right, and experience the effect it has…

You might just quickly forget about the evil influence of nerves entirely. 


In terms of a strong opening, you want it to be short, sharp and simple, and tick these three boxes:

- Straight to the heart of your story

- Establish your authority

- Grab the audience in an instant


For example, when I’m teaching presentation skills, I might begin:

– Who wants to know the secrets of truly powerful public speaking?


Or, if I’m leading a storytelling workshop:

- Storytelling is the magic marvel to interest and influence, impress and inspire.


See how those two openings are all the more effective for being so short, sharp, and simple?

Don’t mess around with thanking the audience for coming, saying what an honour it is to be there…

Asking if they can hear you (my pet hate.)

Or, indeed, introducing yourself.

You can do that in the second line.


Just start strong and striking.

That will get your talk off to the best of beginnings…

And also, critically…

Help to ease those nagging, nasty nerves.