How to quiet your nerves before a big presentation

How much should you prepare—and what steps can help you avoid gaffes that will bring your performance to a screeching halt? Try these eight steps.

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More than 10 years on and I can still vividly remember the presentation that reduced me to a bundle of nerves.

It was a presentation on major incident planning that I had been asked to deliver for a colleague to an audience of around 300 people from across the emergency services. I’d given presentations before, as well as speeches at weddings, but this particular public speaking request really got to me.

In the days leading up to the event my nervousness steadily increased until I was struggling to eat and suffering regular nosebleeds.

Here’s what I learnt from that experience.

1. Always do your preparation.

I think that a big part of the problem for me with this presentation was that I hadn’t written it, or the accompanying slides, and consequently it never really felt natural to me.

My flawed approach was to try to simply familiarize myself with the content provided, and if possible, memorize it. What I should have done was taken some ownership and introduced my own examples and anecdotes.

These give speakers content they can talk about naturally which is a great way of building some confidence and finding their feet in the presentation.

2. Double-check your slides.

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