Speaking too fast? Tips for presentation nerves

This blog outlines the simple solutions discussed during training last week for people who need to slow down their speech a little when presenting. Fast speaking is mostly due to stress and as such it often naturally slows down a few minutes into the presentation. If that’s not the case, try some of these solutions:


Build some gaps into your speaking

The easiest way to slow down during your presentation is to stop talking! To create intonation in your presentation structure and to give you a chance to be quiet and calm down, try building in some speech-gaps. Examples of how to do this include:

Create interactivity

Ask the audience some questions and use this time to breathe, drink water and generally relax. They will be happy to get involved, and the interactivity will increase learning and recall.

Add in new media

Your presentation doesn’t have to be all you. Show a film, hand out a reference, have a flip-chart moment… Just be sure to be quiet for a while.

Use strong transitions

A transition is the moment between one part of your presentation and another. To do a good job of these transitions you need to show the audience that one part is over and another will begin. In principle, this can be done with verbal or visual signals and pace-changing activities. If you go for the verbal transtion, try the “mirror, signal, manoeuvre” technique – it will help you to focus on your structure (which may calm your mind) and give you a moment to drink some water:

  • “So, we’ve seen how proactivity can have a positive impact on the organisation” (Mirror)
  • “Now we are going to see what you can do to build proactivity in your organisation” (Signal)
  • …walk to other side of room, drink water, change PPT slide (Manoeuvre)
  • “In this part of my presentation, we will see 3 best-practices for building proacti…..” (Continue presentation)


Get a helper

Some people just don’t realise that they are talking too fast (until someone tells them afterwards). To remedy this, find someone friendly that you know will be in the audience and ask them to give you a discrete sign when you start speeding too much… (The same approach can be used for time-management in presentations)


Present in a pair

You have been asked to present, but you are nervous. Why have you been asked to present? Probably not because everyone wants to see YOU present, or because they like to put YOU under pressure. The most likely reason is that someone wants to know something, get some input for a decision, hear your arguments for XYZ…. Whatever. So why do it alone? If you know you are stressed, you can always get someone to present with you. Create a strong structure and rehearse well and you will give yourself a good chance to sit back and relax during part of the presentation… …you’ll also get a good opportunity to gauge the audience’s reaction whilst your co-presenter is doing his stuff.


Chill out and believe in yourself!

The nerves are due to stress. Maybe you didn’t prepare well, maybe you don’t like to stand in front of the public, you are not convinced of your message or you had bad experiences before… The stress is due to something in you that is afraid of doing the presentation. That fear can manifest itself in many ways. In presentation skills training, we focus on building strong behaviour that will lead to a strong performance. But this doesn’t mean you need to ignore the nerves. Try one of these solutions:

  • Meditate for a few minutes prior to the presentation – try hiding in the toilets!
  • Use visualisation techniques to convince yourself you will do well (sit down, close your eyes and imagine your successful presentation in all its glory)
  • Scream (this is what my wife and I did in the car on the way to our civil wedding – it works a treat to get out the general stress and trembling voice
  • Do some decent physical exercise prior to the presentation – this can be as simple as systematically tightening and releasing different muscles in your body 1-by-1 (in the toilet again, if necessary) or maybe some real exercise (e.g. running).
  • Try hypnosis – by chance đŸ™‚ my father @andy_steer is a hypnotist and has created a downloadable track to help with confident speaking. His site is here and the free downloadable track about confident presentations is here.


Looking for more ideas? Try this site: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/PresentationNerves.htm.


And if that wasn’t enough, then come to one of my training sessions. Let me know if you are interested….

…and that, as they say in show-business, is all folks!


Hope you found something interesting here – feel free to comment.

Check out www.twitter.com/dan_steer or http://www.infinitelearning.be for more learning and development resources

About Dan Steer

Wandering corporate trainer, learning and development consultant, conference speaker and professional El-Magico. I help people get better at stuff by creating and facilitating Infinite Learning © opportunities. The world would be a better place if everyone was doing what he loved and doing it well. I am working to bring out the "El Magico" in everybody. Training in presentation and communication skills, leadership, social media for learning and marketing, learning and development management + personal effectiveness.

Posted on February 20, 2011, in Communication, Presentation Skills, Resources and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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