Find your Coach
Request a demo

How to not be nervous for a presentation — 13 tips that work (really!)

February 16, 2023 - 15 min read

Businesswoman Making A Presentation To Her Colleagues-how-to-not-be-nervous-for-a-presentation

Jump to section

Why do I get nervous before presenting?

How not to be nervous when presenting

5 techniques to control your nerves

Quotes for inspiration

Speak with confidence

If you feel nervous or scared about talking to someone new, giving a speech, or being on stage, rest assured: you’re not alone. 

Experiencing symptoms of performance anxiety like an increased heart rate, trembling hands, or excessive sweating is perfectly normal. In fact, people often fear public speaking. But the more you’re immersed in these types of situations, the more comfortable you’ll become

We’ll explore how to not be nervous for a presentation and offer inspirational quotes to help you step out of your comfort zone.

Why do I get nervous before presenting?

Man Speaking Through A Microphone In Dark Conference Hall-1

Based on data from the National Social Anxiety Center, fear of public speaking is the most common phobia. The official term for this fear is glossophobia, colloquially termed stage fright.

Stage fright typically arises from the perception that when you're in front of a group of people, they'll judge you. The brain’s frontal lobe aids in memory, and when we’re stressed, increased stress hormones temporarily shut that region down. This is what causes us to freeze up and stop talking. 

There’s nothing wrong with being nervous. We all have different social comfort zones, communication styles, and presentation skills. But we can expand and improve our skills if we’re cognitively flexible.

Cognitive flexibility plays a big role in our behavior and attitudes and impacts our performance. You can use your fears as a catalyst for growth and learning — including giving a great presentation.

How not to be nervous when presenting

The following techniques will help you shift your thinking from reactive to proactive to combat nerves throughout the presentation experience:

Before the presentation:

Student girl preparing for presentation writing notes in her computer at home-how-to-not-be-nervous-for-a-presentation

1. Know your topic

Don’t wing it when it comes to presenting any topic. The better you understand your subject matter, the more confident you’ll feel. You can answer questions right away and won’t have to rely on your notes.

If there are a few points or any information you think might arise during the presentation or Q&A, research it and become comfortable speaking to the subject.

Here are a few ways to study: 

  • Break down concepts onto notecards
  • Practice answering questions  (especially the hard ones you hope no one asks)
  • Explain complex information to peers and colleagues

2. Be organized

Take time to thoroughly plan each aspect of the presentation. Often, that means designing PowerPoint slides or other visual aids like videos. Clarify with the organizer what format and technology you’ll be using.

If it’ll be virtual, get your background and room organized, too. This ensures the presentation will go smoothly, in turn reducing stress. 

Consider the following preparations:

  • Invite your support network to the event
  • Arrive early to set up tech and get comfortable in the space
  • Practice timing your presentation with the time tracker you’ll use day-of
  • Bring a water bottle and a snack
  • Contact your manager or venue staff to discuss any accessibility or tech concerns

3. Practice, practice, practice

Whether you’re rehearsing in front of a mirror, family member, or pet, you can never practice enough. Ask for feedback about your body language, eye contact, and how loudly you project your voice.

If you’ll be giving the presentation on a video conference, record it on the platform to see how you look and sound.

4. Visualize your success

Thinking through possible outcomes is a great way to prepare — but it can also backfire on you. If you obsess over negative what-ifs, this failing mentality might become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

The more often you fill your mind with positive thoughts and visualize your success, the more automatic they’ll be. Positive self-talk can make a big difference to your confidence. Run through the presentation — successfully — in your head.

During the presentation:

Businesswoman speaking from a podium to an audience in a conference-how-to-not-be-nervous-for-a-presentation

5. Focus on your material, not the audience

Your audience is there for your presentation — not to assess you. They’ll be looking at your colorful slides and listening to what you’re saying. Don’t let your mind fill with insecurities

6. Don't fear silence

If your mind suddenly goes blank, that’s okay. It may seem like an eternity to you as you try to figure out what to say next, but it’s only a few seconds at most. 

Pausing isn’t a bad thing, anyway. You can use dramatic breaks advantageously to draw attention before the most important bits. 

7. Speak slowly

Presentation anxiety often causes nervous energy, so we speak faster than normal. This might make you fumble your words or forget important details.

Slow down. Audience members will be thankful since they can understand you, and drawing out your speech will give you time to calm down, ground yourself, and stay organized.

8. Take deep breaths and drink water

Breathing delivers oxygen to your brain, allowing you to think more clearly. Drinking water ups your energy, and also gives you a moment to pause. 

9. Smile

Smiling is a simple yet effective way to soothe your nerves. Doing so releases endorphins, helping you physically feel more confident. And a friendly face will make the audience more open to what you’re saying. 

10. Remember the three "audience truths"

These include: 1) for the duration of the presentation, the audience believes you’re the expert, 2) they’re on your side, and 3) they don’t know when you make a mistake. 

After the presentation:

Businessman giving a talk to a group at a convention center lunch-how-to-not-be-nervous-for-a-presentation

11. Recognize your success

Giving a presentation is something worth being proud of — celebrate it! In addition to family, friends, and coworkers, you deserve a high five from yourself, too.

12. Collect feedback

Feedback is a wonderful gift if you use it as a tool to help you do even better next time. Ask some of your audience members what they liked and what they didn’t. Remember, you can learn a lot from your mistakes

13. Don't beat yourself up

You did the best you could, and that’s all anyone — including you — can ask for. 

5 techniques to control your nerves

Nervousness is perfectly normal, but sometimes our symptoms hold us back from doing — and enjoying — scarier tasks. Here are five tips for overcoming nerves:

1. Practice impression management

Impression management requires projecting an image that contradicts how you actually feel. It’s essentially a “fake it ‘til you make it” strategy. 

Let’s say you’re about to make a corporate-wide presentation and feel worried you’ll forget important information. You’ll counteract this worry by imagining yourself remembering every detail and delivering it entertainingly.

Learn from this practice by noting the information chosen in your hypothetical and how you expressed it effectively. 

2. Talk to someone

Emotions are contagious. We absorb others’ positive vibes. Chatting with people who are excited about and confident in our presentation abilities rubs off on us. 

Before a presentation, call a cheerleader in your life — someone who’s on your side and understands your nerves. Be specific, discussing which parts of presenting are nerve-wracking and what you need from them.

3. Do breathing exercises

Mindful breathing is when you pay attention to the sensation of inhaling and exhaling while controlling and deepening breath length. Breathwork has several health benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety and improving memory, attention, and focus. 

Before the presentation, find a quiet and solitary space. Breathe deeply for at least a minute, focusing on sensation and depth. This practice brings you into your body and out of your mind (away from nerve-wracking thoughts).

4. Practice reframing 

Reframing is a technique used in cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) to improve negative automatic thought patterns over time. One such pattern is viewing certain emotions as bad, and others as good.

Nervousness feels the same in the body as excitement. Instead of panicking even more when realizing you’re nervous, reframe your impression of nerves as excitement for what you’re about to do.

This excitement will propel you forward with confidence and pride for stepping out of your comfort zone and doing something scary.

Quotes for inspiration

Here are seven inspirational quotes to help you feel confident and excited when doing something you’re nervous about:

“You can speak well if your tongue can deliver the message of your heart.”

John Ford

When speaking in public, your message — no matter how important — will not be effective or memorable if you don't have a clear structure.

Patricia Fripp

“The most precious things in speech are the pauses.” 

Sir Ralph Richardson

“The way you overcome shyness is to become so wrapped up in something that you forget to be afraid.”

Lady Bird Johnson

“It’s what you practice in private that you will be rewarded for in public.”

Tony Robbins

“The worst speech you’ll ever give will be far better than the one you never give.”

Fred Miller

Speak with confidence

Like any other skill, learning how to not be nervous for a presentation takes time and practice. Acknowledging this hurdle is the first step to making a change in the right direction. 

Facing your fears will empower you to take on scarier — and more fulfilling — goals and enjoy the experience along the way. You don’t have to start with a TED Talk. Tackle small challenges like presenting an idea to your manager or practicing a short speech with a friend. 

We won’t sugarcoat it — it’s hard to change our minds and habits. But if you’re willing to put in the effort, you’ll be rewarded with increased confidence and new experiences.

Elevate your communication skills

Unlock the power of clear and persuasive communication. Our coaches can guide you to build strong relationships and succeed in both personal and professional life.

Elevate your communication skills

Unlock the power of clear and persuasive communication. Our coaches can guide you to build strong relationships and succeed in both personal and professional life.

Published February 16, 2023

Elizabeth Perry, ACC

Elizabeth Perry is a Coach Community Manager at BetterUp. She uses strategic engagement strategies to cultivate a learning community across a global network of Coaches through in-person and virtual experiences, technology-enabled platforms, and strategic coaching industry partnerships.

With over 3 years of coaching experience and a certification in transformative leadership and life coaching from Sofia University, Elizabeth leverages transpersonal psychology expertise to help coaches and clients gain awareness of their behavioral and thought patterns, discover their purpose and passions, and elevate their potential. She is a lifelong student of psychology, personal growth, and human potential as well as an ICF-certified ACC transpersonal life and leadership Coach.

Read Next

Leadership & Management
16 min read | April 5, 2022

30 presentation feedback examples

Use these 30 presentation feedback examples to help you (and your team) get better at giving presentations. Read More
Professional Development
16 min read | February 16, 2024

6 presentation skills and how to improve them

Presentation skills are necessary for any speaker, whether you’re giving a speech or leading a meeting. Learn how to engage an audience with this guide. Read More
Professional Development
11 min read | June 16, 2022

Reading the room gives you an edge — no matter who you're talking to

Reading the room can help you better reach your audience and keep them engaged. Here are 5 tips to read the room during your next presentation. Read More
Professional Development
14 min read | June 2, 2023

How to make a presentation interactive and exciting

Here’s how to make a presentation interactive and avoid boring slides. Use polls, props, and quizzes to create a lasting experience for your audience. Read More
Professional Development
17 min read | October 2, 2023

How to give a good presentation that captivates any audience

Holding an audience’s attention is no easy task. Learn how to give a good presentation that keeps listeners engaged and excited to hear more. Read More
Professional Development
13 min read | May 25, 2021

The self presentation theory and how to present your best self

Self presentation is defined as the way we try to control how others see us, but it’s just as much about how we see ourselves. It is a skill to achieve a level of comfort... Read More
Employee Experience
16 min read | September 2, 2019

Josh Bersin on the importance of talent management in the modern workplace

Josh Bersin, Founder and Principal of Bersin by Deloitte, recently spoke at BetterUp Shift 2018, an event which brought together the most innovative leaders and thinkers in... Read More
12 min read | October 20, 2023

8 clever hooks for presentations (with tips)

Using creative hooks for presentations is a great way to captivate your audience and earn their engagement from start to finish. Check out our examples. Read More
Professional Development
12 min read | May 6, 2021

The 11 tips that will improve your public speaking skills

No matter what your career path, most employees will at some point have to present, train, lead, or participate in a public forum. All require public speaking skills.... Read More

Similar Articles

Professional Development 

How to disagree at work without being obnoxious

Professional Development 

8 tip to improve your public speaking skills

Professional Development 

The 11 tips that will improve your public speaking skills

Communication & Interpersonal Skills 

Fear of public speaking? Overcome it with these 7 tips

Professional Development 

The self presentation theory and how to present your best self

Professional Development 

How to give a good presentation that captivates any audience

Professional Development 

How to make a presentation interactive and exciting

Professional Development 

6 presentation skills and how to improve them

Professional Development 

Power poses: How to feel more confident with body language

Stay connected with BetterUp

Get our newsletter, event invites, plus product insights and research.