How to Manage Anxiety Around Giving a Presentation
Updated: Aug 12
Your boss has asked you to deputise for them and deliver a presentation to the new recruits joining the company. You are taken aback and feeling like a bunny caught in headlights as you are put on the spot. As you are frantically searching your mind for a reason as to why you can’t possibly do it your boss has already left the office and is on their way to their next meeting.
You are now flooded with dread at the prospect of talking to twenty fresh-faced overly keen employees and maybe notice your mind getting creative with ways to avoid the whole situation such as pulling a sickie or even looking for a new role.
Half laughing at yourself, half squirming inside you realise that if you ever do want to get that promotion you really do need to face your fear around presenting.
One search on google later, you land on this page hoping to find a quick fix that will magically make the pain go away and the presentation feel like a dream.
Alas, I am not a fairy godmother and no amount of advice can ever get you to that stage. Sorry. And so, what can you do?
The first step to overcoming your anxiety about giving a presentation is to figure out what are you afraid of.
Are you afraid that it will go badly and people will leave? Is it that people will think you are incapable and judge you? Is that you will freeze or maybe that the slides won’t work? Maybe it’s that you will forget what you have to say.
Whatever it is, write it down and get really clear on what is scaring you about giving this presentation.
Step one, know thy enemy.
Once you have identified your enemy and there may be several. You can look at ways around it. Come up with solutions if you will.
Say the slides stop working, what can you do?
If you lose your place in your talk, will cue cards help?
For every fear, you come up with, identify at least one way to deal with it.
If you fear people will judge you perhaps you can try the old age remedy of viewing them in their pants!
Step two, practice makes perfect.
Now you have identified what could go wrong it’s time to focus on getting good.
Practice your presentation until you can deliver it like a dream. I like to rehearse in front of my partner if I am giving a talk.
When we practice we are changing our brain. Our brain is made up of millions of called neurons. The neurons communicate with each other by sending chemical signals. There is a common phrase “when neurons fire together they wire together”. When neurons have wired together it becomes much easier for you to do something, as the connection within your brain is already there.
Step Three, Relax!
When we are stressed our bodies go into fight or flight mode. Which is very good at making us pay attention and actually ideal if we are about to give a presentation as we are hyper focused.
However, we don’t want to waste energy being in this hyper-focused state before the presentation as our stress can tip over into anxiety.
So before your big presentation to the new recruits or whoever give yourself some time out. Think about what helps you unwind.
Perhaps a long bubble bather the night before, a morning run or maybe meditation is more your stride. Whatever calms you down book something into your calendar.
Step Four, Enjoy it
We often take life far and away too seriously. The irony is that a presentation delivered with a comical but recovered blooper is far more likely to be remembered than a flawless presentation about health and safety.
Enjoy yourself and the moment. If people are engaged with you they will relax a lot more themselves.
Is standing up to your boss a problem? Click here for ideas on how to be assertive.