This is the first question we get from a lot of presenters.
The vast majority of speakers and presenters suffer from nerves (we’re only human, after all!), and believe that this nervousness negatively impacts their performance. But we always over-estimate the extent to which our audience notices our nerves. And minor pauses and slip-ups that seem painfully obvious to us will largely go overlooked by the audience.
So the first thing, as difficult as it may be, is to stop caring so much. You’re not going to say everything 100% perfectly. Even seasoned presenters never do that. What is important is how you continue after a mistake. Remember: your audience do not have a copy of your script. If you say the wrong thing, they won’t know unless you tell them. So if something doesn’t come out the way you expected it to, just carry on. In 99% of cases, no one will even notice.
Of course, the easiest way to improve your confidence beforehand is to really ensure that you know your content. If you know your key messages back to front, have confidence in your slide deck and materials, and have rehearsed several times so that you always know what is supposed to be coming next, you’ll naturally feel more confident in your ability to deliver your message effectively. And in turn, if you suffer from a moment of panic and forget what you’re supposed to be doing next, knowing your content inside-out will allow you to recover much more quickly. There really is no substitute for sufficient rehearsal.
Finally, don’t focus too much on minor details. Too many presenter coaches stress the importance of tone of voice, body language, and speed of delivery as the things to focus on when delivering a presentation. And yes, these are nice things to fine-tune when you’ve got your content and delivery down pat, but in reality, they don’t have much of an impact on whether or not your presentation will achieve its objectives. And in fact, focusing too much on these things can have negative results. We’ve seen presenters who get so stressed over controlling the way their voice sounds that they work themselves into a nervous frenzy and miss important pieces of content.
It’s far, far better to maybe speak that little bit too quickly and stress the wrong word every now and then, but to have a firm grasp of your content and to be able to deliver that content comfortably and persuasively.