How I Overcame Nerves during a Presentation

“My heart was thumping, my hands suddenly felt damp. I couldn’t control it. I knew this was the usual case of nerves that always grips me when I am about to speak to many people. The crazy thing was I couldn’t find any logical reason why I was so afraid.”

public speech can be a bit daunting but a round of introductions could save the day

I Get Nervous Before ‘High Ranking’ Strangers

Many of us have experienced nervousness right when we are about to stand or speak in front of people. I know I have.

I experienced it when I had to trek the isle through the assembly hall in high school to shake the Head Master’s hand on special occasions.

I would feel all the eyes of the students on me as I made my way up to the front of the hall. It was so scary that my neck would shake involuntarily. I would be forced to stare at the floor as I walked.

I still experience it sometimes when I have to meet with someone considered to be a VIP (very important person). It doesn’t matter if we are seated or standing. It is almost always the same.

This is What Happens When I Get Nervous

Before the speech or meeting, my heart starts to race. It doesn’t listen to the reassurances coming from my mind as I try to make myself less nervous.

I suddenly feel a weird taste in my mouth. It feels like the blood in my tongue and mouth has been diverted to some other body organ.

My heart beats faster and more firmly every passing second before that dreaded encounter. As I wait, I try to avoid eye contact as much as I can.

The whole experience doesn’t make sense because the moment the speech or any such encounter is over, the anxiety disappears without a trace. There is clearly no reason for it having been there in the first place.

Actually, many times, this nervousness disappears even before the encounter or speech or whatever is over. That happens when the brain gradually realizes that it was scared for no reason at all.

I Think I Have Found a Solution

Yesterday, I fell into one of these anxiety-causing circumstances. I was asked to make a presentation about my Tech Startup, SopherApps. The audience was my fellow innovators in Hive Colab.

SopherApps being too young, there wasn’t a lot to say or show. I, however, doubt that this was the reason for my nervousness.

The usual anxiety sprung up. Heart, tongue, neck and all did their choreographed anxious dance.

However, this time, I learnt a valuable lesson about this nagging handicap. Actually, it is more like I learnt something about me.

I realized that I actually settle down more easily when I know the people I am talking to.

I talk to people casually all the time. It is a hobby of mine. I actually don’t feel okay if I spend a long time without talking. That is another thing that fascinates me; the need for human beings to talk even if it is about nothing.

I chat with friends about all sorts of crazy things all the time. I am pretty sure that if the audience was composed purely of my friends, I would be more than okay.

The trouble comes in when my audience has some people I have never interacted with. Probably the reason for the nervousness is the fact that I am not sure how these strangers will react to my speech.

Will they like it? Will they laugh at my jokes? How will they take it?

A Round of Introductions did the Trick

This time, when I faced my fellow innovators (some of whom I had never interacted with), I asked for a round of introductions.

The purpose for this was to kill time. I had very little material to share so I needed a time killer. This time killer, though, did more than kill time.

As I listened to people introduce themselves, they became more like — what can I say — human beings. Before this, the audience had been this ‘thing’ that I had to face. All I had felt before this was that my task was to hide my nervousness, deliver my message and go back to my seat.

However as they introduced themselves, name and a brief bio, I came into my element. I found myself responding to some of them as I usually do when I am talking one-on-one with a friend.

The round of introduction removed the strangers from the audience and the rest is history. I cracked some jokes; the kind I would have been scared to crack with strangers.

My New Standard Icebreaker: A Round of Introductions

I decided I must try this move whenever a similar scenario arises. All I will have to do will be to ask for a round of introductions and hopefully, the effect will be the same or better.

However, I keep wondering about how I can do this if the people are too many. I certainly can’t ask all of them to introduce themselves.

Would randomly picking a few people to introduce themselves help? What if the time I am given is very limited? What then? Do I simply give up and embrace my nervousness?

Maybe I can ask for more time or something. After all, if I don’t deliver the message as clearly as I should, the audience stands to lose. It needs to make me comfortable enough for me to do my part.

I am still thinking of ways to handle these extreme cases. Maybe when I am presented with such an opportunity, I will be unexpectedly rescued as I was in this case. I guess when I do survive that, I will tell you all about it. You never know, you could use the same trick to overcome your nervousness (or just to increase your network).