Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Leadership Today - Practical Tips For Leaders

Jun 16, 2023


Delivering a presentation is a fear-inducing situation for most of us. This week we look at practical ways to manage pre-presentation nerves.



Hello and welcome to episode 189 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we share practical tips to improve your leadership. This week we look at ways to manage pre-presentation nerves.


Most of us will need to give a work presentation at some point. Whether it’s to a group of 5 at a team meeting or 500 at a conference, speaking in public can be very stressful. This applies to online presentations as well. These nerves impact people differently, but many will experience an elevated heart rate, sweating, feeling hot or going red, and struggling to concentrate.


If we let our nerves get the better of us we may not present as well as we had hoped. Our fear might even lead us to avoid opportunities to share our ideas in the future. However there are some practical steps you can take to deal with pre-presentation nerves that will help you to be more confident and clear.

  1. Prepare. Be really clear about what you’re planning to say. I’ve found keeping presentations to three main points works well. Your notes should be bullet points rather than a script. You can start by outlining the three points you will cover, then go into more detail for each of the points, then summarise the three points at the end.
  2. Practice. Run through your presentation in front of the mirror or, better yet, video yourself. Don’t ever let your actual presentation be the first time you’ve said it out loud. I find it helpful to visualise the room I will be presenting in. If you have access to the room ahead of time that’s even better. Run through the presentation until you only need your notes occasionally as a prompt.
  3. Know your audience. Take the time to understand their interests and needs. Speak with people one-on-one before the presentation to gain their perspectives and insights. You can even gather further information during the presentation by getting a show of hands or asking questions. Great presenters focus far more on their audience than themselves.
  4. Reframe your emotions. Being nervous or feeling excited have the same physical signs. It’s down to how you interpret your physical state. It’s far better to say to yourself “I feel like this because I’m excited about this opportunity to present and want it to go well”. This won’t remove all the physical signs of stress, but it will help you to use these feelings to your advantage.
  5. Breathe. We breathe all day long, but we rarely focus on our breathing. We can use our breathing to calm us. A great approach is the box breathing technique. The box is a simple way to remember the structure - inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds. Doing this for just a minute will calm you down dramatically.
  6. Pose a question for discussion early. Asking a question of the group and having them discuss it with one or two others provides an engagement point and also gives a chance to settle in, take some deep breaths and focus.
  7. Focus on individuals not the group as a whole. Another presentation technique which can work well is to focus your attention on a single person for a sentence, then shift to someone else for the next sentence. You need to make this natural for you, but making eye contact will draw people in. It is also a reminder that you are communicating with a room of individuals, not just a group of people.
  8. Seek feedback. This can feel painful, but feedback is a great way to improve. Find someone who can provide you with balanced feedback and speak with them prior to the presentation to set this up well. After the presentation, ask them to share anything that worked well, and things you should do differently next time. Then thank them for the feedback.


Your presentations will continue to improve with practice. If you can learn to expect and even enjoy the discomfort, you will be able to deal effectively with pre-presentation nerves.



Leadership Today On-Demand Special Offer

We have a great deal for podcast listeners on our Leadership Today On-Demand subscription. Just go to and checkout using the promo code PODCAST for 25% off an annual subscription.

Leadership Today On-Demand is a video subscription service that allows you to work on your leadership in your own time and at your own pace. It is available online and through our Apple iOS and Android apps for phones and tablets. Our mission is to help you to become an even better leader.

Your subscription brings together all of our video content in one place including:

- Our annual conference including a range of leadership experts - valued at $450

- Five online courses with workbooks - valued at $250 each

- Five five day challenges with workbooks - valued at $150 each

- Nineteen recorded webinars - valued at $100 each

- A searchable library of 140+ "how to" quick videos on a range of leadership challenges - valued at $350

That's over $4,500 of content for less than the price of a single online course. And there are more videos added each week.


Get Connected

Find out ways to get connected here: