Do you need or want to do presentations and/or demos at work? Does it scare you shitless? It used to for me. But there are ways to make it easier and even enjoy the process and event, read on!

Your brain

It is totally normal and expected that you may feel very nervous about doing things like presenting or doing demos in front of other people. You are isolated, being stared at by a number of sets of eyes, the audience has expectations of you, and others on your team probably have expectations of you.

And so you exhibit physical and mental stress factors. You’re nervous, maybe sweaty hands, pace, stutter when you speak or have a quaver in your voice … whatever happens when you are nervous or under stress.

So the first thing to do is … recognize this is what is happening. Just acknowledging that this is the state you are in, allows you to begin to see how to combat it. And what works for me may not work for you.

Be Prepared

My absolute #1 practical step is to be prepared.

  • Know your content
  • Practice (more on this below).
  • Eat in moderation before
  • Drink water just before (and during, more on this below)
  • Go to the bathroom. You need to, trust me.
  • Wash your hands, do not use sanitizer (it makes your hands sticky which accentuates the nervous physical reactions)
  • Dress comfortably, if at all possible wear what makes you feel safe, and don’t “try that new outfit or pair of shoes”, wear something you’ve worn many times before.


Here’s the thing about practice. It’s a goldilocks thing.

You can not do enough of it. You can do just the right amount. You can do too much.

Doing “not enough” is fairly obvious … you’ll come across as reading the notes or the slides, you’ll likely stumble around the delivery and just generally do a poor job of it.

Doing too much can also lead to fatigue with the delivery and cause you to just want to get it over with on the day and go too fast or not have energy in the delivery. (There is a scenario where you keep going and it gets very good but it’s reserved for Mainstage, more below).

Doing “just enough” is the thing to figure out. When are you “just right”? For me, it means that I can recite what I want to say without the visuals in front of me. Once I get to the point I can do that several times in a row, I’m done. Time to focus on different aspects of the delivery like physical actions.

Now, I’ll add one more critical thing … Practice Out Loud. You cannot practice in your own mind until you get to a very experienced level and even then it’s usually a Bad Idea. You will walk things through in your mind and it will sound great, but it’s not the same as having to verbalize the words and it means that your “practice” is not actually a practice, it’s a different activity … thinking versus speaking. Oh, and do it in the same physical stance as the live one will be … if you’re standing up, practice standing up, if it’s sitting down, do that. All the little nuances matter especially when you’re in the early stages.

A note on Mainstage

I’ve done a few mainstage events. Ok quite a few. And a lot of large rooms that are basically the same. It’s different, and the level of readiness is higher. The cost of failure is exponentially bigger.

This is where the “over practice” has a unique element … you get so prepared that you’ll go through a stage of feeling scripted, and then a breakthrough will happen when you get natural again. It’s weird, but true. You can jump in at any given point and carry on, you can have a chaos-monkey event and just roll over it. It takes *a lot* of practice, for me that was 3-4 weeks of decent prep to get to that level. But then on the day when you walk out in front of tens of thousands of people, you go into auto mode and nail it.

Just Before

Don’t make the mistake of over doing it in the final build up and just before. Take a look at things, scroll through, maybe do a final practice. Then Stop. You have what you need, and your brain will kick in at the right time.

The Delivery

Ok, so it’s on. Here’s a few things I’ve been taught, learn to trust and do.

  • You know more than your audience, and you know what’s coming. They don’t.
  • It’s ok to take sips of water, always have some even if you don’t end up using it, gives your mind peace to know it’s there.
  • Take a breath before you start, especially if you walk out to present or do anything other than just start or stand up.
  • If you’ve done your practice, the delivery will come. As you get more confident and comfortable, you can start to focus on the secondary aspects like the speed of delivery in real time, whether you use your hands when you talk, looking around the audience by either moving your eyes and head, or (as I do) intentionally move around the stage/space to face different sections of people.
  • It’s going to feel weird, for some people always, that other people are looking at you. This is where comfort in your appearance matters. If you’re wearing clothes you know, and have seen what it looks like in photos, it helps alleviate that aspect. You don’t want to be sidetracked by how a pair of shoes feels, or what you might look like in what you are wearing because you are in front of other people.
  • As you progress, try to avoid looking at your content, unless you deliberately are drawing attention to it. Focus on looking towards (not necessarily at, making eye contact can help or hinder depending on how you personally feel about that) the audience and cover the scope of where your audience are situated. It makes people feel like you’re talking to them.


Congratulations, you crushed it. Enjoy that feeling. Take a little walk, review in your mind how you thought you did, don’t be hard on yourself, improvements will happen and you’ll never be perfect every time.

If you want to improve, seek feedback. Not stupid score ratings from attendees which are notoriously contradictory, subjective and filled with bullshit comments. Seek the feedback from people who will coach you on things that matter and want you to succeed.

Experience Matters

I did a presentation in front of the company this week, I think it was a few hundred in person and another thousand or so in remote locations and online. So small size. But it was my first introduction and I wanted to show up well.

So I did practice. Even though at this point I am totally comfortable doing this, it mattered to me, and so I took the time to review the content several times, run through what I wanted to say, and had a few potential add-ins that I may or may not use depending on the vibe in the moment. I did use a couple, but chose not to on a few others.

Hopefully this give you the confidence that you can do this, and to help you remember that this is a skill just like any other that takes time to hone and perfect, and will atrophy when unused.

Let’s be awesome. And nice.