Being nervous before and during a presentation is natural and should be considered a good thing--a little adrenalin often helps you perform better because it sharpens your senses and self-awareness. However, if it is not held in check, nervousness can also undermine your confidence and be a distraction to you and your audience. As a consequence, the audience focuses on you being nervous rather than the content of your presentation.
Keep the following strategies in mind to help control your nervousness:
Here are some things to consider doing to help ensure that nervousness does not become a problem during your presentation:
NOTE: A possible trigger of nervousness can be an odd or unanticipated question from the audience, particularly if it's asked during your presentation. The question could be unrelated to your talk or it may be an issue that you had never considered. Don't panic in this situation. Answer the question to the best of your ability. If you are unable to provide a suitable answer or it's tangential to the topic, note that the importance of the question and invite the audience member to discuss the topic in more detail after you have completed your presentation.
Bailey, Jessica. Extemporaneous Speaking: Engaging with Current Events. Ripon, WI: National Forensic League, 2013; Bodie, Graham D. “A Racing Heart, Rattling Knees, and Ruminative Thoughts: Defining, Explaining, and Treating Public Speaking Anxiety.” Communication Education 59 (2010): 70-105; Dwyer, Karen Kangas and Marlina M. Davidson. “Is Public Speaking Really More Feared Than Death?” Communication Research Reports 29 (2012): 99-107; Giving an Oral Presentation. Academic Skills Centre. University of Canberra; Peoples, Deborah Carter. Guidelines for Oral Presentations. Ohio Wesleyan University Libraries; Nasha, Gregory, Gail Crimminsa, and Florin Oprescua. “If First-Year Students are Afraid of Public Speaking Assessments What can Teachers do to Alleviate such Anxiety?” Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 41 (2016): 586-600; Perret, Nellie. Oral Presentations. The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Shafer, Sherri. “Building Public Speaking Skills across the Curriculum.” The International Journal of Learning 17 (2010): 279-284.
Never Apologize for Being Nervous!
It's natural to be nervous when giving a presentation and members of your audience understand this. Just because you're nervous on the inside, though, doesn't necessarily mean you're showing it on the outside. Most of the time your nervousness is not as pronounced as you think it is, so if you don't say anything, nobody will notice. However, if you apologize, you'll only succeed in calling continuous attention to the fact that you're nervous, and worse yet, apologizing won't help eliminate being nervous. In fact, it may make it worse because-- congratulations!-- now everybody knows you're really nervous! The bottom line is that you should never apologize for being nervous because had you remained silent, your listeners may have never thought that you ever were.
Guidelines for Oral Presentations. Ohio Wesleyan University Libraries.