5 Tips to Overcoming the Jitters to Give Your Best Presentation

This presentation was for middle schoolers. You better believe I was a little nervous.

Most people become nervous right before giving their presentations. Even seasoned scholars feel a bit of a rush right before it’s time to be “on.” In other words, the butterflies are a natural indication that you care about what you’re about to do. Here are a few tips to transform nervous energy into productive energy so that the jitters don’t overtake you and hinder your presentation (none of which is picturing the audience naked).

  1. Practice your presentation out loud before the big moment. Reflect on your practice presentations. What is flowing well? What feels choppy? Add a bullet point, slide, or segue to help guide your delivery. How are you doing for time? When in doubt, slow down your pace. If this change-up makes you exceed the time, your presentation needs to be cut down. Preparation helps to build confidence.
Pets make great audience members for your first run-through.

2. In addition to practicing the actual presentation, informally tell another person about the subject for your presentation. Talking about your topic in a conversation is the best way to a). Make sure you understand it. and b). Make sure other people understand what you are saying. This practice will bring out what words need to be defined, concepts that may need more background, and/or points that need to be addressed more clearly. (Also a great tool for doing job presentations or book pitches).

3. Check out your settings beforehand. If this presentation is over Zoom, open a Zoom room to practice, making sure that the lighting and camera angle work well to highlight you. For in-person gigs, look at the space before you give the presentation, trying out your technology. You will feel less nervous if you know what your presentation in the actual setting will be like.

Presenting in Zoom to yourself may seem awkward, but it’s important to practice.

4. Use the time right before your presentation to get ready. If you are in person, arrive early to set up your technology. Check your notecards (if you use them). Have a spill-proof (trust me) bottle of water handy.
For virtual presentations, open your Power Point ahead of time. You can have a few notes out, but DON’T read just read your paper. You’ll have more energy and audience engagement if you speak extemporaneously.

No one wants to stare at you reading on Zoom.

5. Okay, it’s SHOWTIME! How can you calm your notes in the moment? I recommend focusing on the info that you are about to deliver. What will you tell others? Why does it matter? Think about the presentation as a teaching experience. You have the knowledge that the audience would like to attain. Take a breath. Try to slow down. If you stumble, it’s okay. Just move on to the next point.
Remember that most people are not there to judge you or critique what you are doing or saying. They are rooting for you!

Agnes Moorehead as Mrs. Snow in Pollyanna (1960).

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