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5 Ideas to Help Conquer Stage Fright at Work

So, you’ve got that corporate job you wanted … and now you have to make an important presentation to the team. If the idea of standing up in front of your boss (or your boss’s boss, for that matter) makes your heart jump to your throat and you break out into a cold sweat, know that you’re not alone!

It can feel like everyone in the corporate world is an expert at public speaking, but many corporate executives—including superstars in their industries—have struggled and continue to struggle with stage fright. Stage fright is a normal experience, but you can become more comfortable giving big presentations at work. Here are a few tips to help you conquer your fear of presentations and impress your team at work!

Practice, Practice, Practice

We all know this is the answer, and nobody really wants to hear it, but it’s true. Practicing has a couple benefits: practicing speaking in front of other people will help desensitize you, helping your brain to turn off the fear responses. In addition, the better you know your presentation, the easier it will be to present it with minimal notes. This can help with distractions (like a board member interrupting with a useful question that you expected to get 20 minutes later), and help to avoid signs of nervousness like reading notes or losing your train of thought.

But Do Take Notes!

You don’t want to rely too much on reading notes during a presentation, but having them can help you feel more prepared and comfortable. Try to get comfortable enough with your presentation that you have minimal notes—if you are using PowerPoint or something similar, think about slide contents as your primary source of notes, so that you can just glance over your shoulder. (Pro tip: if you do need to refer to the slides, you can frame it as being for your audience, rather than yourself.)

In addition, take notes while people are speaking or asking questions—in many cases, you may need to follow up in a few hours, days, or even weeks, and you don’t want to rely on your memory of what the CEO mentioned would be “nice to see” in your full report.

Dress to Impress … But Not to Stress

A killer outfit can be a major confidence boost, giving you serotonin that will literally help calm your brain down when you’re anxious. However, an outfit that makes you feel uncomfortable is also going to make you look uncomfortable, and make your anxiety levels spike.

Our tips here: 

  • if you’re meeting after lunch, choose dark colors—otherwise you are almost guaranteed to spill right before the big presentation
  • Standing up for your presentation? Don’t wear a brand new pair of shoes (or a pair that you know is uncomfortable). Painful feet will make you more likely to shift back and forth, which can make you look nervous at best and unreliable at worst
  • Dress a step up from usual, but don’t get too far from your comfort zone. If you normally wear slacks, a skirt suit may make you feel out of place (and tights or hose need some getting used to!). Rethink adding a vest or switching to a bow tie with your suit, as you may find yourself fiddling with the new additions
  • Also take care with jewelry or accessories that you don’t wear every day

Minimize Opportunities for Fidgeting

Okay, it’s true, fidgeting can actually relieve stress. But have you ever found yourself fidgeting, tried to stop, and then realized that it’s all you can think about?

Plan ahead based on your location; consider switching out your chair for one that doesn’t spin, remove clicky pens, pen caps, and paperclips from within reach, and spread out your items so that you don’t have to shuffle them. If you do benefit from fidgeting to help stay relaxed, consider less obtrusive options like a worry stone.

Talk To Trusted Coworkers

It can feel vulnerable to admit that you’re nervous about a big presentation, but having an ally in the room can help. Someone who is in your corner will be there to give a surreptitious thumbs-up, and can make eye contact with the audience less daunting. Prepare a question (and the response!) and ask them to start off the Q & A so that you know you’re ready for that question.

If your work buddy won’t be in the meeting with you, consider scheduling a post-presentation coffee or meal so that you can talk about it while it’s fresh in your mind and have someone to remind you that you did great!

Work presentations are always stressful, but with practice, you can not only pull off fantastic presentations but feel good doing it as well!

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