Natsuyo presenting in front of a powerpoint slide wearing a red suit

It’s not uncommon for public speakers to suffer from nerves or anxiety before they stand up and deliver a presentation. I still feel nervous before I go on a big stage, but I know what techniques to use to settle my nerves down so that they don’t get in the way of delivering my One BIG Message®


In many cases, it’s the way in which we breathe and use our breath that helps us control any anxiety so that we can keep our mind focused on the delivery. In this article, I’m going to share some breathing techniques that have helped me with many challenging and ‘sticky’ situations in the past.  


Be conscious of your breath

The first step – even while you’re reading this – is to be conscious of your breath. The source of your breath should come as low down in your abdomen as possible (the diaphragm). This in turn fills your lungs with air which feeds your brain with more oxygen.  The more oxygen you have the sharper your delivery will be.


If you’re finding that your breath is tight up in your chest, take a moment to inhale and exhale deeply with your hand gently on your abdomen and lower the breath – now do you notice the difference?


Simple breathing exercises

You can try these before you deliver your presentation, even as you’re being announced to your audience – always be conscious of your breath.  


One simple exercise is to inhale slowly for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven, and then exhale slowly for a count of eight. The simple act of counting will also take your mind off any last minute anxiety, and focus on counting. 


A good yawn before you stand up and speak is also a great way to release tension and open up your throat so you can project effectively. 


Another way to calm your nerves before public speaking is to use positive visualization. Picture yourself giving a great presentation – notice how confident and poised you look and feel. See yourself delivering your speech flawlessly, and imagine the audience applauding enthusiastically at the end. Positive visualization can help to increase your confidence and reduce your anxiety.


Calming nerves during your presentation 

If you find that nerves start to get the better of you during your presentation, it’s because you’re mentally watching yourself, rather than being purely in the moment of your story.  Use the pauses that you’ve marked and practiced in your speech to take a breath and gather your thoughts.  The audience probably won’t notice. They’ll be waiting for what comes next!


By using some simple breathing techniques and positive visualization, you can calm your nerves before public speaking engagements. Deep breathing will help you relax, while positive visualization will increase your confidence. With these simple exercises in your toolkit, you’ll be ready to take on any public speaking challenge.


If you’re a public speaker looking for ways to take your delivery to the next level, my E-learning program “The Art of Persuasive Speaking in Global Business” allows you to explore and practice the most powerful ways to frame your ideas and communication to influence your audience.




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