Talking Points
October 2021

Keep Calm and Carry On – Staying Cool During a Presentation

You approach the podium, greeted by a sea of blank stares. Heart racing, sweaty palms, and here comes an obscure question out of left field. No problem, right? It’s easy to say “just relax” but a lot harder to do when you’re faced with making a presentation under pressure. Here are some tips that have helped us turn stress into success.

Breathe. Before you answer a question or react to an interruption, take a deep breath. It sounds simple, but this is a first step that actually works and has a natural calming effect.

Listen. Pay attention to what others have said before you respond. In a group setting, try waiting until last in order to consider the perspectives of all group members.

Prepare. If your stress is due to a lack of preparation, you’ll be even more frustrated because you could have avoided it with practice. Knowing that you are well prepared will alleviate a lot of worry.

Visualize. To help stay calm before a stressful event do a mental dress rehearsal:

  • Visualize what you’ll do in case of a snag.
  • Visualize yourself acting with patience and focus.
  • Reflect on times when you were able to stay calm in a frustrating situation.

Avoid the caffeine. If you are making a presentation or involved in an important meeting, caffeinated beverages stimulate nervousness and only add to your stress level.

Prioritize. Force yourself to address the most urgent need first. To avoid being overwhelmed, decide what is really important and what can wait.

Know your patterns of exasperation. Do certain situations always cause you to lose your cool? Even the time of day might contribute to your stress level. Take note of your responses and know whether they are due to anxiety. Knowing your own patterns can go a long way toward keeping your cool.

Some colleagues swear that meditation or exercise helps them remain calm and carry on. Others insist that taking a break with a walk outside is a necessary ritual. Whatever steps you choose, know that quieting those stress factors can make you more successful.

 

 

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