Whether its presenting, auditioning, interviewing or leading a team, all of us get nervous. Here are some hot tips to keep you cool and calm under pressure.
1. Focus on the Breath
An oldie but still a goodie. We all hear this one a lot. But breathing is still the first thing we forget to do when we are under stress. And its the best remedy to calm a brain reeling from overwhelm, nerves or stage fright. Breathing deeply sends much needed oxygen to our brain which helps us to think more clearly and calms our nervous system. The best thing to do just before you present is your favourite deep breathing practise.
Try this: Before you walk into the room or onto the stage, put your hands on your belly and take a few deep breaths into your hands.
2. Power Pose (in the bathroom)
In her TED talk, Amy Cuddy reveals her research that our bodies can change our minds. By holding a power pose for two minutes we can significantly increase risk tolerance, increase testosterone by 20%, decrease the stress hormone cortisol by 25% and feel more assertive, confident and comfortable: the best way to feel when facing a group of people.
Try this: arrive early and hold one of these power poses in the bathroom (or a private space) for two minutes before you enter the presenting space. Sounds strange, but it works.
3. Dress well
Sounds shallow, but it can save a lot of stress. Take time the day before to plan out what you’re going to wear. Choose clothing that is appropriate to the occasion, but also make sure its comfortable. Make sure you’ve worn it before. If you sweat, make sure it’s dark or loose enough that it won’t show. Make sure you can move your arms and sit down comfortably. Take the time to make sure everything is clean and (if necessary) ironed.
Planning in this way will make your preparation smooth (no panicked running around the house or last minute changes) and will make sure you feel confident and comfortable on the day.
4. Tell a story
If you’re presenting, open and close with a story. Throw a story in the middle of your talk. Stories grab listeners attention like nothing else. Stories are memorable and connect the listener to your content instantly. If you feel people have stopped listening, you haven’t included enough stories. Turn boring content around with an interesting anecdote.
If you’re interviewing or auditioning: connect with the decision maker with a story that will interest them. Even better – make them laugh.
5. Practise precision: no waffling or waving
If you can say it in less, do. There’s nothing better than a presentation that gets to the point, tells a few entertaining stories and sprinkles humour throughout.
If you know you wave your arms about or feel uncomfortable standing in front of people, put something in your hand. A pen, a whiteboard marker, a presentation clicker or something related to your situation. It will ground you and give those flapping arms something to hold on to.
What’s your tried and true tip for staying calm under pressure? The more tips the better! Share them with us in the comments below.
Good luck out there! Stay cool.