You have the feeling your lungs have packed their bags and moved into your throat. Air is becoming a luxury. Your mouth is dryer than a desert that just ate a whole box of rusk. You’re sweating. You are producing more words per second than Gary Vaynerchuk on speed. If this sounds familiar, it can only mean one thing…, you are giving a presentation and are nervous as hell.

The more you present, the faster nerves will disappear and transform into a healthy adrenaline, through the experience and routine you create over time. But…, that takes a lot of practice. So here are three tips that might help you calm down in the meantime, while you are building up that experience:

1. Help yourself by building in moments of peace

The audience doesn’t know what you are going to say. They know your subject, but have no clue about how you are going to tell the story. So if you know your nerves will take over during a presentation, start building in moments that will give you a small time out, to catch your breath and get a grip. This can be obvious things like putting a video at strategic points. It gives you 1 to 2 minutes in which the audience isn’t looking at you. Take that moment (and not like most nervous speakers, start talking through your video, the video will explain it, don’t worry :)) and relax, take a deep breath, have a quick drink and prepare yourself to take back control once the video is over.

In case you don’t have a video, it can be simple things like; questions (What do you think this number means? What do you do for a living?), pictures (cartoon or riddle, Can you find it?), interactive exercise (stand up and do x or y),… You can build in all these smalls aids up front. This way you know, no matter how nervous you get, you will have some moments in there, that will distract the audience. It will get the focus off you for a couple of seconds or minutes, so you can control that squeaky voice, calm your breathing or wipe the sweat of your forehead. You control the presentation, so make your own life easier.

2. Get yourself a routine to get it out of your system

If you are nervous for a presentation, you will have little control over your body. Nerves are boiling up and as a reaction, most speakers just remain silent and still before they go on stage. The first time they open their mouth and present their body to the world, will be in front of the audience. Releasing all those nerves on stage, will be like opening a jar that has been stuffed too full. It will pop and everything will come out in whatever way it sees fit 🙂 Weird voice, red face, sweaty hands, dry mouth,… Result = only more nerves and the audience downsizing your credibility as a speaker. Doesn’t he believe in his own story? Isn’t he supposed to be experienced? Why is he so nervous? So get yourself some sort of routine. This can be anything, as long as it gets all that tension out of your system before you take the stage. Move, scream, do voice exercises, dance. Whatever works for you. Some of the most famous speakers in the world have the weirdest routines to get pumped and get the negativity out of their system. A singer also warms up her voice before a concert, her first note is not on stage. Free your nerves, so you know in what state your body and mind is in, before you present it to the audience. (Check out Tony Robbins his crazy presentation prep routine :))

3. Learn to shut up

The biggest mistake speakers make when they are nervous is rattling. You have the feeling that you need to fill up every second you have, because silence feels awkward when you are nervous. Normal, but realize silence is your ally, your best friend and the thing that will make a good presentation turn into a great one. All the great speakers use silence as an instrument to create tension, excitement, impatience and getting the audience in a state of “ooooh, what is he going to say, what is coming next, it must be good, because he isn’t saying anything…” So when you are a nervous speaker and can’t control your voice or breathing, try to remember silence is your friend. Go up on stage or in front of a group, have a quick drink, say goodmorning, ask a simple question to which the audience can react and give yourself time to relax on stage and get used to not saying anything. It will feel like hell on the inside at first, but the audience will just see it as creating a moment. Easier said than done, I hear some of you say. True, but giving yourself time to adapt, will not only benefit your presentation, it will also help you calm your voice, breathing and the audience. The last group will have to process a lot during your presentation, so a silent moment once in a while will also give them time to digest and think about what you just said. In short, silence is a win win for both parties at the presentation table.

Hope these three tips will help you control or downsize your nerves. Practice makes perfect, but like with everything, perfection takes time. In the meantime, things like this can make your life easier. So you can focus on your story and entertaining the audience, instead of sweating your ass off, praying it will be over soon and avoiding standing in front of a group. Now go practice and rock that next presentation!

Questions, let me know in the comments below! 🙂 #sharingiscaring