Managing Presentation Nerves: Tips for Staying Calm and Confident

Presentation nerves is a common issue faced by many professionals.  The thought of standing in front of an audience and delivering a presentation can be daunting.

The good news is, there are ways to manage nerves and boost confidence when giving presentations.

The key is to use the nerves to drive performance but also control them so they do not take over.  Just as athletes often break records at big events so too can a presenter deliver above their normal standard when under pressure.

In this post, we’ll share our tips for managing nervousness and building confidence.


Why do you feel nervous?

You’ve probably heard of the “Fight or Flight” response, Chat GPT says:

The fight or flight response is a physiological reaction triggered in response to a perceived threat or stressor. It is a natural survival mechanism that prepares the body to either confront the threat or flee from it.

Chat GPT further says that when the fight or flight response is activated, this is what happens:

… the body releases stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which increase heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate, while redirecting blood flow to essential muscles and organs. These changes help enhance strength, speed, and alertness, enabling individuals to effectively respond to potential danger.

The causes and triggers of this fight of flight response can vary from person to person.  The most common triggers being the fear of failure and judgment.

You might fear delivering a bad presentation or being judged by the audience, which can all build up to an overwhelming feeling of nervousness.


So how do you manage that feeling?

Preparation can play a huge part in helping to manage nerves. Steps can be taken in the weeks before, on the day and actually during the presentation itself to help with nerves.

One of our earlier blogs dives more into the preparation and planning stage of a presentation which you can read here.

Below are a few practical tips that can help:

Practice deep breathing exercises: Deep breathing exercises can help calm the body and mind.  Before your presentation, go for a walk around the block and take deep breaths.  Take a few more deep breaths before you begin your presentation to help you feel more relaxed and grounded.

Visualise a successful outcome: Imagine yourself giving a successful presentation. What does that feel like? Visualise the audience clapping, and the positive feedback you’ll receive. This can help boost your confidence and reduce nervousness.

Connect with the audience: If you are presenting at an in-person event, meet and greet people as they enter. If you are presenting virtually, try to make time beforehand for an informal “chat” online. This will help you connect with your audience, letting them see a friendly face before you start your presentation.

During the presentation, make eye contact with the audience but if you’re giving a virtual presentation, remember to focus on the camera as this will give the audience the connection they crave.  Remember the audience are on your side! By shifting your focus to the audience, you’ll be less likely to focus on your own nervousness.

Use positive self-talk: Give yourself a pep talk and talk to yourself in a positive way. Tell yourself that you can do this and that you are going to deliver a great presentation.

Follow a structured routine before the presentation: Having a structured routine before the presentation can help you feel more in control and reduce nervousness. For example, you can run through your notes and equipment, review your presentation, and do a few deep breathing exercises before you start.


Boosting Confidence

Managing your nerves is just one part of the equation – building confidence is also important.

We cannot emphasise enough the importance of practising your presentation out loud! Video yourself on your phone and watch it back as much as you can.  Listen out for the use of filler words, and whether your pace is rushed.  If you’re speaking quickly, make a conscious effort to pause the next time you practise out loud.

What about your vocal range? Do you change your pitch, or do you keep it at all one monotonous level?

How do you look? Are you fidgety when you speak or more like a statue? Do you use hand gestures when presenting?

By practising as much as you can, you will feel better prepared and more confident… and if you feel confident then you will look confident to your audience.


Feeling nervous before giving a presentation is completely natural – we prefer the term excited rather than nervous! By trying the tips above the next time you have to speak in front of a group, you will learn to manage that nervous feeling and feel more confident.


If you or your team would like to know more about managing nerves when presenting, you might be interested in our in-company programmes, where controlling nerves is just one of the topics. Click here to find out more.