Nailing the nerves in public speaking

Do nerves drive you nuts when public speaking and presenting, and stop you performing well? This quick rundown of five effective insights can help nail those nasty nerves…

Simon presenting at a conference

Simon Hall writes...I'm often asked whether I get nervous when public speaking and presenting.

The answer is a big YES.

For example, last week I started my first teaching at an overseas university.

It's a big and prestigious one, which just made me even more wobbly inside.

But! I'm pleased to report it went very well.

And much of that is because I have certain tricks I use to help control the nerves.


This rundown of techniques, all tried and tested, should help to manage nerves.

Including the absolute golden secret of how to deal with those annoying interior trembles.

So, in true Top of the Pops countdown style, let’s start with tip number five…


Give yourself time to ease the nerves

I’m always amazed how many people turn up for a big presentation with just a few minutes to spare.

That’s hardly going to help them relax and perform well.

Instead, be sure to get to the venue well in advance, and I mean very well in advance.


You want at least an hour, first of all to reassure yourself that you’re safely there, and ready to go…

And, critically, to make sure the slides, presentation and technology work.

That's even the case when presenting online - perhaps especially so.

Getting set up early really helps to ease the nerves.

But it also has another key benefit, which brings us to insight number four…


Know the venue to soothe the nerves

It helps to control nerves if you can visualise yourself in glorious action.

For that, you need to be at the venue well in advance, and able to stride the stage where you will perform.

That gives you an opportunity to decide where to stand to dominate the room…

Make sure the audience has a clear view of you and your presentation…

And know your voice will carry to everyone gathered to hear your wisdom. 


Then stand in that spot, and imagine yourself going through your talk.

See the smiles, nods, appreciation from the audience…

So when you come to do it for real, your moment in the spotlight won’t feel anything like as daunting.


Neutralising nerves by getting some air

This sounds counterintuitive, but it’s highly effective.

Okay, so you’ve arrived at the venue early, you know where you’re going to stand on the stage, you’re in the right mindset to perform.

Now get outside for a while.


If you just linger inside, waiting to go on, the nerves will build and build.

So take a break, even if just for a few minutes.

Get into the open air, look up at the sky, breathe deeply, roll your neck, stretch your arms, just live in the moment, even if only for a while…

And that will help to relax you, and control the nerves.


Slowing down to stem the nerves

Now we move on to your performance, and a critical insight.

Nerves tend to make you go faster, to get this scary moment over and done with.

Don’t let them. Instead, harness them.

Use their adrenaline and energy to help your perform.


Slowing down a little is really useful here.

Not a lot, maybe just 10-15% slower than your usual presenting speed.

That will give you space to know what to say next, so eliminating those annoying umms and errs of redundancies.

Your voice will be stronger for slowing down, and critically…

The ability to breathe deeply will help to calm you.


Look at all the great public speakers.

None of them rush. Quite the reverse. All take their time.

They will be nervous as well, don’t doubt it.

But slowing down helps with that, along with enhancing your authority. 


The golden secret of nailing nerves

This is so simple, but so important.

What will help most of all to deal with nerves?

And with a drum roll, the answer is...

If you are completely in command of your spiel, know exactly what you’ll be saying, how it all works with your slides…

And generally, so well prepared that it will be harder to make a hash of this big moment than to triumph.


There is no substitute in life for hard work. It's annoying, but true.

And that means, if you want to become an outstanding presenter, and able to deal with whatever nerves may come bothering you…

Prepare and practice, then prepare and practice some more, then prepare and practice yet again and again...

And don’t stop until you just know you're going to do great.


I hope that helps in terms of calming the nerves the next time you perform, and makes sure you give your very best.

If you need any more support with public speaking and presenting, feel free to get in touch.

I’m always happy to try to help.

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