Why Am I Nervous About Presenting?

This blog post came out of a recent conversation I had. Being relatively new in their role, one of my colleagues mentioned they were nervous about presenting in a webinar we were co-presenting. So that got me thinking about the topic, is getting nervous a good or bad thing?

Public speaking, doing a demonstration or delivering a presentation are all similar. In some ways it’s analogous to performing on stage or in competing in a sporting event: you are in front of an audience and you want to perform at your best.

So why would you be nervous? I can think of 3 reasons:

  1. You have not done your homework and you are not prepared
  2. There have not been enough rehearsals or repetitions of the material
  3. It is a large crowd or an important meeting and you want to do your best

Preparation

If the problem is the first one, that is usually on you. Even if preparation time is short, you can make sure you understand the material and you have done your basic research. Ensure you have a goal for what you want to accomplish.

Repetition

Repetition is also important. For me to be comfortable giving a presentation or a speech, I need to have delivered the material multiple times. The same is true with a demonstration. The more dry runs I have the more rhythm I develop. I can identify rough spots or areas I need to change what I say or how I make a point. If it is for a client, customize your standard presentations to tailor them to the client’s needs, personalizing the message. Use some of their terms to make a point or an example. 

Sometimes I reorder or add and remove slides multiple times until I get the flow I feel is just right. I can ensure the timing is spot-on and leaves time for audience interaction and Q&A. Then  do multiple dry runs. I’ve done a lot of presentations to my pets. They’re great listeners, when they stay awake. 

Are you done yet? I’m hungry.

I’m Still Nervous

Even when you’re prepared, you’ve done the prep work and you have had plenty of dry runs, you might still feel nervous. Personally, I think that’s 100% normal. Ask any athlete or performer if they get nervous or have butterflies before a big event or show and most of them will say yes. I’ve done hundreds of product demonstrations, presentations and speeches over the years and I still get nervous at times.

Doing a day long or multi-day product overview session in front of a clients selection team is a challenging environment. I love the challenge, but I’m usually a bit nervous going in, regardless of how prepared I am. Walking out on a stage in front of an audience I’m normally nervous, even if it’s a friendly audience. I think presenting should always have you on edge a bit, ready to capture the audience’s attention and get them engaged, just like any performance.

Everyone Makes Mistakes

Do I kill it everytime out? Nope. No one has a stellar performance every time out. No one scores a hat trick, goes 4-4 at the plate or gets a triple-double every game. Even the best miss an open goal, or strike out in a clutch situation now and then. Actors flub lines or miss their marks. But if you take the steps to be prepared and put in the practice time, you will be successful more often than not. 

What are your practice habits? How do you prepare for a major presentation or demonstration or speaking engagement? Leave your comments and let us know. 

1 Year Subscription