25 replies
Today I had to give a presentation in class. Before it was my turn to go up and speak, I felt my heart start to beat really fast and was short breathed and nervous as hell! Although they applauded my presentation, I felt it could have been way better if I didn't experience those feelings.

Can anyone recommend any helpful tips or self improvement eBooks I can read to prepare myself for the next time I have to give a presentation in class?
#ebooks #public #speaking
  • Profile picture of the author Mynt
    One reason you get nervous is because you're conceptualizing yourself giving the presentation and fumbling your words, having a shaky voice, screwing up.

    You then find yourself getting nervous about it, feeling the symptoms of increased heart rate, butterflies, etc--which reinforces those thoughts and fears. And you think subconsciously; "I feel scared, so it must be true" ...that you'll screw up.

    Why the fear of screwing up trigger such strong emotions? We all have a primitive craving to be accepted, and fear criticism like death. That's why public speaking isn't easy.

    I overcame fear of public speaking by simply learning to be aware of my thoughts.

    Put your total focus and attention on your physical symptoms of anxiety the hours and minutes leading to your speech. You'll come to realize quickly they're the exact same symptoms of say--exercising.

    And that it's your thoughts--not reality--that provokes those symptoms.

    Kinda like a little kid who falls and scraps his knees. Crying only after looking down and seeing a little blood.

    With practice, you'll learn to spot anxiety-inducing thoughts and make them vanish by simply narrowing your focus and realizing it's all irrational, silly thoughts, nothing solid behind it.


    Good luck!
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  • Profile picture of the author David Wilding
    If you PREPARE far enough in advance and go over your "talk" often and question everything you are going to say:
    Is what I am saying making sense?
    Does this make my point?
    Is there a better way to say this?
    Am I too repetitive?
    How is my pacing?

    Have a trusted friend(s) listen and then answer the above questions.

    You'll be fine.

    As Lady Deberg says in one of my favorite movies "Pride and Prejudice", "No excellence can be acheived without practice".
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  • Profile picture of the author MilitantHippo
    If at all possible, do a run through with a friend who is willing to be very honest with you about your presentation. Also, I always find that intentionally slowing my pace, and picking 1 person every 10 or 15 seconds to make eye contact with is helpful, even though you can't expect that you will get the same responses from those persons ie. head nods, smiles, that you would from normal conversation. It does get better with practice, and take stock in the fact that you actually did it. Bravo!
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  • Profile picture of the author jasonmorgan
    Business communications... essentially 'how to give a presentation' was one of the best classes I ever took.

    How you felt, I know that exact feeling.

    I wouldn't waste any money on books. Just practice, it gets easier, I promise.
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  • Profile picture of the author 2d0k
    Originally Posted by NLDesignStudio View Post

    Today I had to give a presentation in class. Before it was my turn to go up and speak, I felt my heart start to beat really fast and was short breathed and nervous as hell! Although they applauded my presentation, I felt it could have been way better if I didn't experience those feelings.

    Can anyone recommend any helpful tips or self improvement eBooks I can read to prepare myself for the next time I have to give a presentation in class?
    being nervous before doing a public speech is natural.. on the physical aspect of things, the body triggers the brain to release natural chemicals like adrenalin that makes your heart pump more blood to the body in anticipation of the speech.. more blood, more oxygen to the brain.. adrenaline also makes your mind sharp..

    on the self-esteem aspect, many people feel this nervousness because of a mistaken belief that may be the audience might not like the presentation.. but most of the time, if you have prepared yourself, this mindset is proven wrong..

    a simple yet effective way to overcome this is to practice in front of the mirror several times until you deliver your speech perfectly.
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  • Profile picture of the author Robert Boduch
    Try getting your body to work for you. If at all possible, workout before your presentation. Physical exercise combined with deep breathing is great stress relief. Some speakers, like Ted Nicholas jog up the stairs and onto the stage. It's energizing and helps you get focused.

    Visualize your audience enjoying your presentation and do it over and over again and you'll be much more likely to nail it. How you are introduced can also set you up for a knockout presentation. Know your topic well and have fun with it.

    Like others have said, the more you do it, the easier it is to deliver and the better the result.
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  • Profile picture of the author Chris Thompson
    NLP + self hypnosis is one of the fastest ways to overcome this type of problem. The training I did helped me with this tremendously. See my WSO (signature) for a link. It's not my product, I just sell it online exclusively and it rocks.
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  • Profile picture of the author vagabondette
    If you're going to have to give presentations frequently I'd strongly recommend joining a Toastmasters group. You will learn so much about how to appropriately structure a speech/presentation and how to control the fear that comes along with it that it'll be more than worth your time. Plus, it's a great networking opportunity.

    I'm one of the lucky ones that doesn't have a problem getting up and speaking in front of people - probably since I started when I was 15 - but Toastmasters made me so much more polished and comfortable it was absolutely worth my time.

    Good luck!
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  • Profile picture of the author stev998
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    • Profile picture of the author naonline
      This is an issue close to my heart as i'm giving my first seminar to the local chamber of commerce in a few weeks. It's all about self perception, self esteem and mind set. Tony Robbins is always good to watch/listen to give you a boost and a very old but still highly relevant book is dale carngie's The art of Public Speaking => The Art of Public Speaking by Dale Carnegie - Free eBook
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      • Profile picture of the author writeabooknow
        There are several strategies that could help you with this challenge... each one has been effective for many people. This is sort of a buffet of solutions:

        First, after you've got all your notes for your presentation (I suggest point form so you can use your own words and large point sizes so you can read the cards from a distance), start giving your presentation to your first audience. Usually a chair or other non-protesting piece of furniture.

        Make no mistake, this is the most painfully boring process you've ever encountered, but it's also the one that will give you the best results. Give your presentation over and over and over again, until you're almost sick of it and have unwittingly absorbed all the information into your brain (probably through osmosis). If you give this presentation frequently, you should start sounding like a very well-rehearsed actor delivering a well scripted one-man show.

        Next, give your presentation to a video camera. Don't worry about looking stupid, you will. You are your own worst critic. The whole point is to realize that when you deliver this presentation, you will be nervous. There's no sense adding forgetting the content to the problem.

        Don't bother giving your presentation to a friend. First, they'll only be able to sit through it once without bailing out. Second, what makes you think they could offer anything constructive. Third, unless they hate you, truly hate you, they'll just tell you your presentation is wonderful.

        Presentation time. Unless you've developed your own style (in which case you wouldn't be nervous) you'll have to borrow one. Think of a presenter you have heard frequently and really like... tony robbins, Les Brown, Jim Rohn, Irving Lipschitz (the last one is local, but still very good), and become that presenter. Make your presentation by pretending to be that person. Don't worry about people realizing what you're doing. Your immitation will be so bad that no one will realize you're doing an impression of Brian Tracy. They'll just think you're enthusiastic, know your material and really want to help them.

        Cheers,

        Steve Manning
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  • Profile picture of the author Amanda Craven
    I trained as an actress and have spoken in public countless times both in and out of character! Here are a few practical tips to help:

    Stand with your feet slightly apart, one further forward than the other. Most people find putting their right foot forward works better but experiment. As you speak, push into this front foot slightly so that it is taking around 60% of your weight. This will help you feel more stable and physically steady your nerves.

    Try to breathe into your lower ribs rather than your chest. Chest breathing only results in a shallow intake of air which makes your voice sound thin and actually stokes your nerves. Practice by placing your thumbs on the front of your lower ribs, pointing towards one another across your torso with your fingers wrapping around your back. As you breathe in, try to push your thumbs apart, hold the breath for a count of one and then relax as you exhale. These are the basics of back breathing which is used by both actors and opera singers to sustain a long, steady breath (useful when you have long Shakespearean lines or an aria to deliver!)

    If you are speaking from notes, place one thumb next to the first line of those notes and run that thumb down the page as you read through so that you always have it anchoring the appropriate place. That way, you won't be nervous that you'll lose the thread of what you are saying. Try to read the line first then look up and deliver it. This makes it far fresher for your audience and conveys more sincerity as they can see your face as you speak. If you don't want to look at the audience, try looking slightly over their heads. If you falter, force yourself to smile. It instantly relaxes your jaw muscles. Then simply take a breath and start again.

    There's a ton more I could say but hope that helps for starters!

    Amanda
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  • Profile picture of the author kevinpotts
    It's perfectly normal to be a little nervous before a presentation for some it's harder even... public speaking it's hard but when you prepare enough and be aware that you KNOW what you're there for, and KNOW your subject, you'll do fine!.

    Keep on practicing, you'll do better with practice.

    Kevin
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  • Profile picture of the author nadzrul
    my advice: avoid eye-contacts with audience, it may weaken you. Instead of looking at the audience right in the eye, look at them ears so you wouldn't look too nervous
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    • Profile picture of the author zim
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      • Profile picture of the author Yuds
        I second the notion that you MUST join Toastmasters.

        Honestly, you will learn more about how to speak confidently and communicate well by joining Toastmasters than you will by reading any book or by just practicing alone.

        Toastmasters is a very 'safe' place to iron out your kinks, find where your weak spots are and get constructive yet positive feedback and help on your public speaking.

        You'll get opportunities to get up and speak every single meeting and it will make a massive difference in helping you come across well while you're up speaking as well as learning how to create an effective speech, how to prepare well, what kind of body language to use and so on.

        Don't think about it, just do it. I promise you it will be one of the best decisions you ever made.
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  • Profile picture of the author Rachel Rofe
    I third Toastmaster's. Joining a group proved to be absolutely invaluable to me.

    I made a blog post about it a while ago, if you're interested:

    An ode to Toastmaster’s… :
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    • Profile picture of the author GT
      Hello:

      Preparation and practice are the key to any successful presentation. Know what you want to say, plan it out from beginning to end, and practice, practice, practice before presentation day.

      Fear and nervousness are natural. We never get over our fear of public speaking, but we can learn to control and direct it.

      Steps to a Success Presentation

      1) Make sure your presentation has a clear opening statement, briefly telling the audience what you are going to be talking about.

      2) After the opening statement, in the body of your presentation, include several key points that support the topic. Fill in each key point with examples, details, stories, whatever is appropriate to both the topic and to the audience.

      3) Wrap up the presentation with a brief closing comment that basically reinforces the key point you want to leave your audience with.

      If you are adequately prepared, the jitters won't interfere too much with your presentation.

      Oh, yeah. One more thing: I, too, highly recommend Toastmasters International for training, feedback and support. However, please note that Toastmaster clubs each have their own "personality." Find one that is supportive and that encourages ALL members to participate in a meeting no matter what level of speaking experience they have.

      GT
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  • Profile picture of the author cosmolito
    I gotta tell ya, nervousness is common during public talking. And if you have a normal social life and are confident, with repetition (speaking in front of people repeatedly), you'll soon get used to it and it will become an easy task. BUT, if you have an unusually disturbing time with it and it happens every time you publicly speak, it's a tough one to get rid of.

    It's because, with any habit you have, it is ingrained in your sub-conscious mind. The physical neural pathways have been set. That's not to say they cannot be reversed BUT it will take diligence and hard work (and patience).

    In essence, you must retrain your mind to not go that way when your habitual tendencies get stimulated.

    We have a thought like, "I can't do this!" and then IF we buy that thought hook line and sinker, our emotions will get triggered and here we go again.

    BUT

    If we train our mind, at a certain point, we'll be in control. I know all this because I am a practicing Buddhist with the Diamond Way. You really learn a lot about how the mind works.

    It is not a get-better-quick any more than it is a get-rich-quick system. It is a slow and steady process and I can attest to that. Results come but it takes time (in general).

    But in order to have results, it really takes practice. You practice bringing your mind to the highest good - just like positive thinking accept with Buddhism, there is a much more practical and complete system in place to get you where you want to go.

    Just as a disclaimer, I don't mean to preach anything but I wanted to put in my 2 cents for what has worked for me.

    Thanks
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  • Profile picture of the author William Bell
    Acknowledge the fear and understand that it is normal to be a bit anxious, but make it serve you. How can you do that?

    1. Focus on how you want to "feel" rather than how you don't. It's important to begin practicing and imagining the way you want to feel before you do your presentation.

    What you described seems to be how you might perform under pressure.

    2. Secondly, don't try to overcome it all at once. That usually does not work. Take it in steps. For example, you might want to focus on breathing calmly to start. Deep calm breaths. See yourself doing this even when you are not speaking. Get a few photos or images of calm to remind you of this and reinforce the image in your mind. Recall it when you think of speaking. It will then act as a trigger.

    3. Imagine that you will have a great time. See yourself providing helpful, informative, interesting and entertaining information to your audience. Expect them to like the presentation. Practice the "feeling" this gives you.

    4. Whenever possible arrive at a speaking event early and talk to the audience. Getting to know a few people personally helps you to be more comfortable in speaking to them and may even provide a great point of interest, illustration and segue in your speech. Sometimes the enthusiasm alone which comes from that connection gets you excited and feeling more confident.

    5. Obviously be well prepared which eliminates most nervousness. Remember, it's okay to be a little nervous. That keeps you sharp. Control it by practicing the feelings you want to experience both while you practice your speech and when you don't. If you make this a habit, you'll always default to it, not to the nervousness because you will have trained your subconscious to perform the new behavior.

    6. Find objects to use as "people" when you're practicing. Give them personalities and hold conversations with them during your speech. Walk over to them and engage them. You'll have no fear of them and that confidence will transfer to your live presentations.
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  • Profile picture of the author Sam Mlambo
    Well my friend even public speakers who've been on the circuit for a number of years still get nervous. Look at your nerves as being a sign that your ready to perform/present. That's how I get over mine.

    - Sam
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    • Profile picture of the author webwriter
      Having taught college-level courses in public speaking, I can tell you that it is perfectly natural to feel anxious and nervous before giving a presentation. That is nature's way of protecting you!

      Your job is gaining some control and comfort.

      First up, allow enough preparation time and whatever you do, DON'T MEMORIZE your speech! You can, however, memorize its first sentence. And DON'T read your speech to your audience. Holding a paper close to you sets a barrier between you and your audience. It also doesn't help inspire confidence. One of my college professors read every lecture to us and managed to turn off most of the students in his class. Also made class time extremely boring.

      Secondly, consider yourself as an expert in your topic, sharing your knowledge in a conversation with your audience.

      Thirdly, divide your speech into a beginning, middle and end. Outline your main points and bullet them on a piece of paper or index card. Those points will serve as prompts, reminding you of your supporting points.

      And finally, practice your speech at home. Give it in front of pets or family members. (I used to practice my speeches in front of my cats, lol.) It is important to HEAR your speech. After all, there is a big difference between words on paper and spoken words. Remember to practice every day so that you are very familiar with what you are going to say. Use a conversational tone.

      GOOD LUCK! You will succeed with practice.You can practice giving other speeches as well by joining your local Toastmasters.

      Experienced speakers also feel anxious and tense at first.
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  • Profile picture of the author mrdanger503
    Like you, I get terribly nervous before speaking. Not that I'm necessarily recommending this option; but my doctor prescribed me propranolo, which basically controls your heartrate from going crazy and helps you focus when you're nervous. It's helped, but not nearly as much as practice practice practice. I went to meetup.com and found some toastmaster type groups that have really helped. Good luck!
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  • Profile picture of the author veeronica
    I'm not sure where your located but there is a course you can do called toast masters. This is one of the best courses you can do to improve public speaking. If you google toast masters international maybe you can find a session being held close to you.
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  • Profile picture of the author HayleyWriter
    Quick tip - have a glass of water near you when you give a presentation. Have a quick sip of the water while you are being introduced to the audience. It moistens the mouth and tongue and avoids that dry mouth feeling. When your body is in "fright or flight" mode, you get a dry mouth (so you don't choke on saliva if you have to run). When you are nervous, you get a dry mouth. Taking a quick drink of water gets your mouth to send back "it's okay now" messages to your brain and you automatically relax. Try it and see.
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  • Profile picture of the author acms
    I am another fan of Toastmasters! I used to dread the thought of public speaking, but Toastmasters really helped me overcome this!! Just the ability to practice that skill in front of supportive people was a big plus for me!
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  • Profile picture of the author henryhank
    I've read most of the responses in this thread. Your answer is in
    this thread; but in bits and pieces.

    For instance, the very practical solution of having water nearby
    is an excellent practical way to combat dry mouth. Which by the
    way, you will get. Especially if your nervousness lingers for an
    extended period.

    Don't be alarmed, dry mouth is normal. Being nervous is normal.

    I've been speaking in public for years. Unfortunately, being
    nervous is part and parcel of public speaking. The very first
    time I spoke publicly it was a disaster.

    But I hasten to add this, don't allow a potential disaster to stop
    you from accepting speaking engagements. That's how you get better.

    However, when starting out, there are some things you do need to be
    mindful of.

    Very briefly, saturation. Immerse yourself in your topic. Totally.
    Eat, sleep and drink your topic.

    Organization, organize your speech in a well thought out sequence.
    Have a logical order. Your speech laid out in a logical organized
    way helps.

    Then practice, practice, and then practice some more. You'll be glad
    you did.

    Audio tape yourself actually running through your speech. I know,
    I know ...you sound funny. Don't panic, you'll grow on yourself.
    It's important not to beat yourself up. Give yourself a break.

    Laugh at how you sound. Wanna see something funny? Video tape
    yourself giving the speech.

    Now, that's funny. Anyway, easy on yourself. Make sure to practice.
    That's where your self-confidence comes to the fore.

    Tell you what, grab my short FREE report on Practical Public Speaking.
    It's chock-full of practical advice on public speaking.

    Follow this link: Public Speaking

    Warmly,
    Clef
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