How To Battle Anxiety & Jitters Before Giving That Important Presentation

Public speaking drives us to expose ourselves to people that matter.

woman speaking to co-workers garetsworkshop/shutterstock

Do you have public speaking anxiety? Almost everyone has encountered that nervousness before a presentation, big or small.

You feel a certain sensation in your stomach. Your breathing gets shallow. Your chest feels heavy.

Even though you've prepared, you are certain that you will mess this up in front of all the stakeholders.

The classic "fight, flight, or freeze" response is the body’s automatic system built through the evolutionary process, designed to protect us from any threat of danger.


Although it originated in times of stress and enabled you to flee or fight in the face of predators, in business, the threats to your well-being are mostly psychological.

However, your body fails to differentiate between the two.

And because public speaking offers you the opportunity to expose yourself in front of people that matter to your success, it's not surprising that it's one of the greatest fears.

You may struggle then to fight against such instincts.

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If you have public speaking anxiety at work, here are 5 ways to overcome it.

1. Prepare well.

This doesn't mean just preparing your content and delivery. Make sure you have the lay of the land clear in your mind — i.e., the conference room, the technical equipment, the profile of the audience, and so on.


Before any leadership development workshop, I check the room before the scheduled time and go over the details of the participants.

Nervousness is triggered easily by surprises, while there will always be some surprises (what is the fun, otherwise?!), you can reduce the number and impact.

2. Practice.

There are no shortcuts around this. Do whatever it takes to practice your content and delivery so well that there is no other way but to feel confident about it.

The more confident you feel, the less nervous you are bound to get before the big day.

Here are a few tips that help:

Practicing in front of a mirror.
Making cue cards.
Recording what you have to say and listen to it over and over again while walking or doing other things.
Pose difficult questions to yourself that the audience may ask and try answering them.


3. Visualize.

Try this visualization exercise. Imagine yourself giving a great presentation.

Neuroscience found that the brain sometimes has difficulty distinguishing between actual experiences and imagined ones.

Use that fact to your advantage. Imagine every minute of the presentation in great detail.

What will it feel like, smell like, look like? How will you begin? What will the audience look like?

Imagine the success of your presentation. We always feel more comfortable with things we are already familiar with.

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4. Serve.

In this situation, nervousness is caused by many fears that decide to show up together. It could be the fear of being judged, fear of failure, or the fear of letting people down, including yourself.


Know that you are here to serve the audience, and go in with the best intention for them. Simultaneously, think that the audience wants what’s best for you, even though that is sometimes hard to believe.

Know that even if you fall flat on your face, you will get up and make a joke and make people laugh. You want them to get something out of your presentation that you are there to offer.

5. Trust in yourself.

And finally, get comfortable with uncertainty. No one can have total control over any situation.


At some point, you have to trust that you have done all that you can to prepare, and leave it at that.

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Bhavna Dalal is a master certified executive coach MCC ICF, speaker, and author of "Checkmate Office Politics" who helps people develop their leadership skills, such as executive presence, strategic thinking, influencing, and networking. To learn more about her work, visit her website or follow her on LinkedIn.