How to manage nerves, & why you don’t need to be too calm to be a pro presenter

woman presenting on a video call, webinar, presenter

It’s normal to feel anxious before important video calls and conferences. For many people it can feel quite unfamiliar and unnatural.

If we’re feeling anxious, we are usually worrying about what has happened or might happen, and our attention is not in the present. It means our stress hormone, cortisol has increased and we feel ‘off-centre’ rather than ‘centred.’ Feeling anxious can impair performance and mean you are unable to think clearly, however this isn’t always the case.

There are some easy things you can do when you start feeling anxious before a video presentation:

Breathe deeply to re-centre yourself

Breathe in deeply as if breathing upwards and then breathe out in a long breath, as if you are exhaling down the front of your body. Maintain an upright stance throughout. Imagine you have soft shoulders and relax them. As your attention is brought back to the present, you may be able to feel a difference even after just a few breaths.

Stay hydrated

Amanda Carlson, a performance nutritionist says that ‘Studies have shown that being just a litre dehydrated can increase your cortisol levels.’ Dehydration causes stress and stress causes dehydration, so make sure you stay hydrated to lower your chances of feeling anxious.

 Reframe anxious experiences to a positive

If you are feeling anxious, it can help to positively reframe the situation. When we give negative meanings to things that happen it can make things worse.

It can help to ask yourself: ‘What else it could mean?’

For example, if you make a mistake at the start of your talk you might instinctively think ‘I’ve made a mistake so this is going to be awful.’ But pausing and taking a moment to positively reframe the experience may be more helpful, by thinking something like ‘That’s an early sign to keep me on my toes’.

Place a positive label on the ‘negative’ feeling

Some of the feelings we label positive or negative are often very similar. ‘Nervous’ often feels like ‘excited’.

Try and change the label you give to your feelings. Instead of saying ‘I’ve got butterflies’ or ‘I feel nervous’, try saying ‘I feel a sense of anticipation’ or ‘excitement’. Try to change the label you give to your negative feeling to change your reaction into a positive.

Graham ShawAbout the author

Graham Shaw is a speaker coach, Business Book Awards finalist and the author of The Speaker’s Coach: 60 secrets to make your talk, speech or presentation amazing, published by Pearson


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