Keeping Your Cool: How to Stay Focused Under Pressure

Performance anxiety haunts many people and they might avoid public speaking at all costs. What do you do, however, when you are asked to give a presentation at work? Despite your fears of public speaking, there may come a time when you have to present in front of an audience so it’s important to learn how to tackle your anxiety and perform under pressure. Here are a few tips for calming your presentation nerves so you can stay focused on your audience to deliver an engaging talk. 

Know Your Material

The most important thing you can do to calm your nerves under pressure is to know your material inside and out. The truth is, many people rely heavily on notes, a script, or a slideshow to get them through the presentation but it’s extremely important to know your material without these speaking aids. The more knowledgeable you are about your material, the more comfortable you will be delivering it. 

Organize Your Materials

Having your materials well organized will also help to calm your nerves. If you are using a PowerPoint make sure your slide deck is thoughtfully organized so you can easily transition from one point to another throughout your presentation. You also want to have a well-organized script and/or notes that you can easily reference should you forget your lines or begin to feel nervous. 

Practice and Rehearse

You should practice and rehearse your presentation several times before the big day. Familiarizing yourself with your material will help to build confidence so you speak more naturally. It can also be helpful to present in front of a small audience. Practice too much by yourself in a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere isn’t going to prepare you for the nerves and pressure you will feel when you step in front of an actual audience. Therefore, it can be beneficial to practice in a more realistic setting with a live audience. 

Deep Breathing

Once you have done everything you can to prepare your presentation, it’s time to focus on preparing yourself physically. Nerves can cause physical reactions in your body and can increase adrenaline making you feel panicky and anxious. You can counteract some of these effects with simple breathing techniques. Spend some time before your presentation taking deep breaths with slow inhale and exhale. Doing this for about 10-15 minutes can greatly reduce anxiety.