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Calming Presentation Nerves


Hi everyone,

I'm going to be working with a senior manager who gets extremely nervous before presenting to others. This includes team meetings as well as presenting to customers.

I've already advised on planning, preparation, practice and simple relaxation technique though would like some additional ideas and advice to help us further.

Any tips, advice and suggestions would be grealty appreciated.

Many thanks,
Carol Walton

8 Responses

  1. A few ideas, as requested
    Dear Carol

    Do you know what she or he is nervous about? I did some work with a man who thought he had to be formal (which he was not) when his own natural informal style was exactly right for the situation. I suggest you “give him a good listening to” to start with.

    Another way that has worked for me is to set up a practice session that is deliberately worse than anything that is likely to happen. Ask the person to speak without preparation for five minutes about something he knows nothing about while you look really bored and fidget/interrupt etc. If s(he) is willing to do this, s(he) will get hot, angry, embarrassed and howl with laughter and it is likely this will shift the tension that gets in the way of the real event. Even thinking about doing it may be enough!

    These are just some thoughts to play with. Though I do recommend you work one to one as much as you can to create the trust you need to shift what is probably an emotional block.

    Best wishes

    Nick Heap

    [email protected]

    01707 886553

  2. relaxation or NLP techniques
    Dear Carol
    There are some very good techniques that can be used to assist. As a coach and teacher I would use the above techniques if I had been through all the performance coaching you have done.
    Sounds like a bit of phobia tucked in somewhere.

  3. It takes time, but a few techniques will help

    In addition to the other excellent comments, I would suggest the following:

    a) Let him know how nervous you (presumably an accomplished presenter!) used to get, and still get, when presenting. Many people believe that there are ‘presenters’ and ‘non-presenters’ and they they call into the latter camp. Explain that nervousness is natural and good – provided that the nervousness is kept under control – because it keeps you alert and hightens your performance. Then explain the techniques you use to control nervousness:

    b) Breathing technique. I’ve seen a calming yoga-style breathing technique work wonders with nervous performers

    c) Visualizing himself delivering a successful presentation

    d) LOTS of practice with a short (5 minute) presentation, so that he gets the habit of simply standing up and talking.

    Best of luck with your challenge!


  4. Make it a 2-way learning experience
    The following tips may help your senior colleague.

    1. Remember that each member of the audience is in a 1-to-1 relationship with the speaker. Audiences are made up of individuals.
    2. Focus your attention on the individuals in the audience, and invite them to get involved. The more you can get them to talk, the less talking you have to do!
    3. A presentation doesn’t have to be a lecture. Invite people to ask questions at any time, not just at the end. Make your session interactive.
    4. If your presentation becomes more like a 2-way conversation, both you and your audience will enjoy and benefit from it more.
    5. Instead of making statements, ask questions and use the answers to link into the points you want to bring out.
    6. Construct and use a simple feedback questionnaire for the audience to fill in, and hand it out before you begin. Show them that you are a person who learns from experience, and give them a practical example of how to do so. The results will help you to build your own confidence, and suggest improvements for next time.
    7. Finally, remember that presentational slickness is not the most important thing. As Dr. Rowan Williams has recently said:
    “The best teacher, the one who has most claim on obedience, may be the one who is at times least fluent and confident, most puzzled and engaged and troubled by the truth.”

  5. prove how good he is
    I used to run (actually I still do) an event that utilised a video camera to capture delegates carrying out three exercises. These were of gradually increasing complexity and gradually increasing audience involvement. After each event the delegates reviewed the video and critiqued themselves and each other POSITIVELY. Initial resistance to going on tape was often very strong but in around 70 courses with 9 delegates to a course I have never had a refusal. Peoples confidence has been boosted enormously by the methodology used.
    It is a very powerful learning tool to to see yourself as others do.

  6. aromatherapy
    This works for me – a little lavendar oil, but, this doesn’t solve the internal dialogue “I’m not very good… ” that sort of thing.

    I remember a quote – no idea who from about nerves “Its not getting rid of the butterflies, its getting them to fly in formation”.. I interpret that as knowing your audience, planning, preparation and of course the 2nd most important P – Practice (the first being have one before you start).

  7. What Nerves??? –
    Hey Carol,

    I can help you out with this! I am more than willing to assist. I can provide you with a testimonial from the MD of a multi million £ northern based company for whom I did EXACTLY this. Their results speak for themselves, I promise!
    Give me a call
    The Edge Training Consultancy Ltd
    Office: 01625 581457
    Mobile: 07977 013462

  8. Change the Focus
    Speaking purely from my personal experience, I’ve never met anyone who was able to focus all of their attention on the audience AND be nervous.

    Of course that only applies DURING the presentation. For detailed information on what to do BEFORE the presentation, see:

    “Successful Presentation Skills”, the best selling book in the Sunday Times/Kogan Page series “Creating Success”.



    Be well

    Andy B.


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