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presentation training Controlling nerves p8

“The day I stop having nerves is the day I stop acting”
Sir Lawrence Oliver


A survey showed that when people were questioned on their most dreaded experience, the fear of speaking in public was higher than the more expected ones like flying, fear of spiders and insects or dread of heights.

Everyone gets nervous – even very accomplished speakers, but it is quite normal and can actually improve your performance – provided they are the right kind of nerves.

The right kind of nerves come from really wanting to “do a good job”. Sports people call this “butterflies” – when you feel nervous beforehand but, after a couple of minutes of performing, the nerves go. This is when they turn into adrenaline and your performance is heightened. With the right nerves, you never look as nervous as you feel. The skill is to keep those “butterflies” flying in the same formation.

The wrong kind of nerves come from fear – fear of making a fool of yourself. This can make you appear nervous, speak too quickly, shorten pauses and prevent you emphasizing your meaning through gestures and tone.

Remember that, in nearly every case, your audience is on your side until you do something to turn them against you.

“Your brain starts working the moment you are born and does not stop until the Master of Ceremonies at the Lions Annual Dinner unexpectedly asks you to make the next speech”

The Star


  • Be confident through having prepared thoroughly and rehearsed.
  • Know your speaking environment.
  • Get to the venue early.
  • Prepare the environment – ensure you can operate all equipment.
  • Where possible, chat to the audience before you start (audience involvement).
  • Do breathing exercises before starting.
  • Take your time – get your notes and first slide ready.
  • Smile. You will appear relaxed and pleased to be there. This will relax the audience.
  • Believe in what you’re saying – be thoroughly convinced of the worth of your message.
  • Take a deep breath and project your voice.
  • Try to relax your audience by telling a personal experience story.
  • Look at a friendly face (to begin with only).
  • Perform well; act as if in total charge.
  • More audience involvement will reduce nerves.


Thinking positively about your activity. Try to visualise success. The great golfer Jack Niklaus put it this way:

“First I ‘see’ the ball where I want it to finish, nice and white and sitting up high on the bright green grass. Then the scene quickly changes and I ‘see’ the ball going there: it’s path, trajectory and shape, even its behaviour on landing. Then there is a sort of fade-out, and the next scene shows me making the sort of swing that will turn the previous image into reality.”


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