In business, it’s only natural that you’ll be called on to present to an audience. However, the stakes of some of these presentations can be relatively high, which can lead to anxiety and heightened nerves for the person giving them. Not everyone is naturally cool under pressure, yet so many business professionals manage to give these pitches effortlessly, or so it seems.
What all these professionals know is that calming your nerves isn’t always as difficult as it first seems. To offer some insight, eight members of Young Entrepreneur Council weigh in on the strategies that work for them and how they’re able to deliver calm, collected pitches time and again.
Young Entrepreneur Council members discuss how not to let your nerves get the best of you before a big presentation.
Photos courtesy of the individual members.
1. Review Everything Ahead Of Time
I review all materials ahead of time and extensively review the background of the person I will be speaking with. Then, right before the meeting, I take a pause to just be with myself and breathe. This makes me feel like I am prepared and in the right frame of mind to be myself. Remembering that you know what you’re talking about better than anyone else in the conversation is very affirming and a confidence boost. – Carrie Rich, The Global Good Fund
2. Get There Early
First, simply get there early. Give yourself enough time to adjust to your surroundings, look over any notes and even relax with a drink. You don’t want thirst or anything else to distract you. Don’t overdo it, of course. You don’t want to give yourself too much time—that can lead to a build-up of nerves too. Give yourself a loose plan to handle any issues that may pop up and to take care of everything necessary. Allot enough time to make sure all your needs are met, your papers are in order and you are ready to go. Accomplishing these little goals can give you a little confidence boost. Ultimately, if you really know the material, you will have no problem talking about it or answering questions. Preparedness can be just the thing you need for you to realize you’ve got this! – Matt Bertram, EWR Digital
3. Let Your Passion Take Over
Being nervous about a presentation is normal. Don’t let your negative thoughts take over. Even the most seasoned performers still get nervous. Adele has said that she’s thrown up backstage before shows due to her stage fright. Eddie Van Halen and Ozzy Osbourne have similar stories. The important thing is how you deal with your nerves. Many people suggest trying to calm yourself down, taking deep breaths and going over your pitch 100 times. That might work for some people, but I think it’s more important to focus on why you are there. Amp yourself up instead of calming yourself down. You are there for a reason. Whether it’s to make a sale or get a new investor, you should be passionate about your pitch. Get excited about it and let your passion and confidence overcome your nerves. – Shaun Conrad, Guitar Repair Bench
4. Think Of The Worst That Could Happen
When I am starting to feel nervous about something, I check myself with one question: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” They could laugh, they could say no, they could get bored. It’s not like, if they don’t like the pitch then they will execute me. It’s not like I am being forced to do this against my will. In reality, the worst thing that could happen is that the audience doesn’t like my pitch—and that’s not life-shattering. Usually, in addition to bringing me back to reality, asking myself this question makes me laugh a little too. Laughter always helps calm the nerves. – Kelly Ann Collins, Vult Lab
5. Enjoy The Adrenaline
Deep breathing is good for clearing your head, but so is taking a minute to step back and get some perspective. Remember that this isn’t the last opportunity you’ll ever create for yourself, nor the last pitch you’ll ever make. Make up your mind to enjoy the adrenaline. Visualize the most excellent version of the pitch and outcome you can, and hold that vision in mind to inspire yourself to rise to the occasion. – Tyler Bray, TK Trailer Parts
6. Imagine Handing Someone Else The Burden
Have fun! Leading a business is a privilege and I try to remember this prior to any presentation. If I approach the pitch after reminding myself to enjoy the moment and to have fun, I find that it always calms my nerves. The second thing I do prior to pitches and meetings is I imagine myself taking the burden of a good pitch off my shoulders and handing it to someone else (this person could be literally anyone—a parent, a benevolent being, etc.). The mind is such a powerful thing. This trick works because your mind cannot differentiate between emotions evoked by real events versus emotions evoked by imaginary events. When you imagine this burden being lifted from your shoulders and handed to someone else, it will physically manifest itself by you feeling less nervous. Try it out! – Arian Radmand, IgnitePost – Robotically handwritten notes
7. Remember Your Audience Wants You To Succeed
I used to get pretty nervous before a pitch or presentation, but then I got some good, simple advice that calmed me down. I was told to always remember that the people I am speaking to want me to succeed and that they also do not know my pitch. So, if I flub part of it, they have no idea. Reminding myself of those simple bits of advice has made pitching a lot easier for me. – Zach Binder, Bell + Ivy
8. Tune Into Your Body
Do you feel rigid? Is your jaw clenched? Do you even feel defensive? Taking a moment to be still, to assess how you’re feeling and what your body posture is, can help adjust and calm your nerves. Adopting a broader stance can help you feel more grounded and less distracted, for example. You will also feel more confident. Making sure your jaw is not clenched can also help you release any anxiety and relax. Most tension people feel ends up sitting in their neck and shoulders. So also be sure to take a deep breath and release any nerves sitting there. – Blair Thomas, eMerchantBroker