Most people get nervous at the thought of having to present in front of a crowd. Is there something in our DNA that makes us fear crowds? Perhaps there was (is?) an evolutionary advantage to staying low and not being noticed by predators, including the human variety. No matter the reason, it's a fact that standing in front of a group of people is freighting to many and provokes varying degrees of anxiety among the rest, including seasoned presenters and entertainers. So what can you do to calm your nerves?
The BBC reports today on some new research that says "Sex cuts public speaking stress." Interesting, but I think we already know that sex can reduce stress (depending on the circumstance). But as Peter Bull, a psychologist from the University of York who was interviewed for the BBC article said, "You are probably better off thinking about what you are going to say and preparing thoroughly." (Thanks, Colm, for the link).
Preparedness and practice create confidence and reduce anxiety
Here's what I said on my website about confidence and presentation anxiety: The more you are on top of your material the less nervous you will be. If you have taken the time to build the logical flow of your presentation, designed supporting materials that are professional and appropriate, there is much less to be nervous about. And, if you have then rehearsed with an actual computer and projector (assuming you are using slideware) several times, your nervousness should all but melt away. We fear what we do not know. If we know our material well and have rehearsed the flow, know what slide is next in the deck, and have anticipated questions, then we have eliminated much (but not all) of the unknown. When you remove the unknown and reduce anxiety and nervousness, then confidence is something that will naturally take the place of your anxiety.
No amount of sex the night before will make you a better presenter if you are not prepared (obviously). And I would take this study reported on by the BBC with a grain of salt. Still, if you are well prepared, exercise including a swim in the hotel pool, yoga, or a jog in the park (etc.) followed by a good night's sleep can be a huge help. If I'm on the road I go for a long jog/walk in the AM as well. This reduces stress and also allows me time to visualize the presentation, to anticipate questions, etc.
Other tips for dealing with presentation anxiety? Love to hear what's worked for you.