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Dealing with presentation anxiety

Sex_stressMost 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?

Have sex?
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.

Exercise matters
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.


Andreas Gerads, Aachen, Germany

Dear Garr,

I absolutely aggree with you.

I had to held a case study presentation at University just a week ago, and I "defeated" my nervousness by preparing very well. It helped me a lot, to prepare some phrases and to learn the order of slides by heart, so that I knew what`s coming next.

In the end everything worked very well and my nervousness turned into passion.

That`s all.

Regards from Germany


Matthew Vieke

Some people take medication to relieve social anxiety, I like to do couple of shots of Sailor Jerry 10 minutes before a big presentation. It really takes the edge off.

It works so don't judge me.


I'll stick with sex.


The day/evening before a big presentation, especially one where I'm asking for money, I have a routine that I try to stick with:

1.) Reherse the whole thing, at least twice.

2.) Work out, ideally something social.

3.) Shower/dress up nice.

4.) Really good meal.

5.) Sex

6.) Good night's sleep.

And you can skip the really good meal for pizza or room service, if need be.

Die Stimme der freien Welt

As usual:

"Poor preparated people perform piss poor presentations"


The #1 thing that has worked for me is teaching, which required me to speak for almost 3 hours at a time (I had 2 classes at 1.5 hours each). I was very nervous the first couple of days, mostly that someone would ask a question to which I wouldn't know the answer.

I'd say practice, practice, practice. Take advantage of every opportunity you can to speak in front of groups.

Of course, this is in addition to being well-rested and properly prepared.


Do you think the preparation tips are the same whether you are giving a one-off presentation to a new audience versus an on-going training-type presentation to a returning audience?

Ed Byrne

1. Practice
2. Practice
3. Practive


Seriously though ... make your slides, ensure you REALLY know what you're talking about, and then present it to yourself over and over and over. In your mind then if you get nervous and can't adlib, at least you can fall back on the memorised version you gave to yourself so many times.

I find it a great way to take nerves away - when you know worst-case you can just repeat from memory. And then you never need to to that anyway, because you're confident in your material.


My highschool teacher would always tell us, "To fail to prepare is to prepare to fail."


During the dotcom boom I chaired conferences. This involved recruiting speakers for panels and presentations. I liked to tag people who were technically knowledgable and smart, but whose job did not normally include public speaking. That eliminated the marketing drones who turned every conference speaking opportunity, in which the paying audience had a right to expect information they could use, into a sales pitch.

But the smart people who didn't speak often tended to get very nervous, and often it was their first time speaking in public. Here's what I used to tell them, based on what I used to tell myself to calm my own jitters long ago:

The audience is just ordinary people like you. They aren't any smarter than you are, they don't know everything and you've got something to share with them that they want to learn. They wish you well. They are not going to be looking and listening to you hypercritically, especially if you aren't trying to sell them something.

Think about when you're in the audience, how do you feel about the speaker? Do you give the speaker the benefit of the doubt, sympathize with his or her jitters and little mistakes, and admire the speaker for having the nerve to get up there and speak? You do? Well, that's how your audience feels about you.

And here's the most valuable advice my high school speach coach ever gave me: Never be afraid to make a fool of yourself in public. If you goof, have a laugh at yourself, and the audience will love you.

You know this topic backwards and forwards, or I wouldn't have asked you to speak. Now go practice your presentation in front of the mirror, then do it in front of someone you trust. Then do it in front of three people. If you're still shaky, do it in front of ten. By the time the conference rolls around you'll have it mastered, and you'll be eager to get up there and speak. It will be over before you know it, and you'll get applause at the end, and you'll feel great.

Seemed to work.

Heidi Miller

I go through the entire presentation, out loud, standing up, with visual aids, at least five times in the two weeks prior to the talk. By the time I've given it the fifth time, I know the flow so well that I have no doubt that even if I misspeak or forget something, the general flow will work.

That, plus I used to be an actor, so that whole nervous-in-front-of-people doesn't happen so much any more! :-)

From the Place

I failed once in the college while doing a seminar infront of the whole class, and they laugh, ... and now after around three years, I still have the same and maybe more fear of public speaking ....

I tried so many ways, but the fear was eating me, sorry guy, but this is the truth

sometimes, i feal fear while just speaking on the phone, and even thinking that i'll do a presentation is enough to allocate my mind, and make me sick.

I think that I thought too much about it, rather than skipping it, and now, while I am working in a respected company, and presentation skills controls my carrier, it becomes more and more harder.

according to the fight or flight, I were always with fight, hopping that I can win the battale, but it seems lastly that I was in a combat with myself, and even I win, I will have wounds since I am the two war parties.

you all see the same subject but from outdoor point of view, and I think I see it from inisde.

lately, it things becomes silly, and whatever happened is not matter ... I think if I didn't end this story, i'll surrender.

It was nice to share all those feeling with you, knowing that this thing can rule out a man's life.

and today, I've decided to put an end for this and forever, life can't hold any meaning with fear... since it absorbs everything there.

and you may suprrize to find that the most simple tecqniues will be used in this, since they are the only key.

wish luck for all.


can music relieve stress in Big Sales Pitch and make the less nervousness

Tips for Relieving Anxiety

It's not easy giving any kind of presentation if you have the slightest bit of social or public speaking anxiety. I started doing the following and it's helped a lot.

1. get to the venue early to become familiar with my surroundings
2. Practice, practice, practice.
3. Present in front of friends and family first.
4. Talk a lot before presenting to get a flow for speaking.
5. Always have a bottle of water if my mouth gets dry.
6. Take a few really deep breaths before going on.
7. Use notecards. I never memorize what I'm going to say. It sounds to rehearsed.

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