top of page
  • Writer's pictureDominic Schmuck, Ph.D.

Crush Presentation Anxiety at Work with These Tips From a Psychologist

Updated: Apr 18

Can you relate to spending too much time preparing for your next presentation and yet feeling extremely nervous before your presentation or as soon as you start speaking? Maybe you even begin to sweat, experience a fast-beating heart, have difficulty breathing, or encounter some tremors. You "knew" you were ready for the presentation. You "know" what to say and do, but now you can't focus at all. Your confidence is gone. Your mind has gone blank or feels like a fog is clouding your ability to think and speak. You feel lost and don't know what to do anymore.

Such feelings can be quite common, especially in high-stress work settings and particularly when your income is tied to your performance. Luckily, there are a lot of techniques you can try on your own. It can also be helpful to enlist the help of a therapist experienced in helping people navigate such situations and provide you with more personalized strategies and ideas to overcome your anxiety. Below are general tips many of my clients have found helpful when working through presentation anxiety.

Man giving a presentation

Tips on Overcoming Presentation Anxiety

  1. Take enough time to sleep the day before. Sleep, in general, is important, but especially the day before your presentation, make sure NOT to practice your presentation until late at night. Instead, say to yourself "good enough" and engage in calming practices before bed. Maybe take a hot bath. Maybe listen to calming music. Lay down early and go to sleep. Some people stay awake the day before because they try to get more practice in. However, this will likely just make it harder for your brain to function well on the day of your presentation. It will likely also increase your anxiety instead of decreasing it. For most I talk to, preparation for the presentation is not the issue. The anxiety that keeps your brain from thinking clearly is.

  2. Limit your caffeine intake on the day of your presentation. Caffeine is a stimulant. As such, drinking or using caffeine on the day of your presentation can increase your anxiety levels. The research is very clear that caffeine intake can increase anxiety levels. You are likely fine drinking one cup of coffee in the morning of your presentation, but really be conscious of limiting your caffeine intake. I have had a couple of clients who were drinking multiple cups of coffee on the day of their presentation and repeatedly had panic attacks during their presentations. After stopping all caffeine intake on the day of their presentations, they also did not have panic attacks anymore.

  3. Lean into your fears, and become comfortable with being uncomfortable. This is something you might be able to do on your own, or you might need the help of a professional. However, in general, you can try to identify what you are afraid of. Is it the judgment of others? Is it the possibility of losing your job? Is it losing respect from your colleagues? Identifying what you are afraid of can help you face those fears. If you don't know what makes you afraid, you likely also won't be able to practice overcoming that fear. If you are afraid of losing your job, practicing public speaking outside of your job setting won't really help you. In such an instance, public speaking isn't the issue. Your fear of losing your job is.

  4. Practice relaxation exercises. You could practice paced breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or any other relaxation techniques. It is useful to practice such techniques even when you are not feeling any anxiety. That way, you become better at the exercises, and your body also becomes more used to them. When you then later experience heightened anxiety, you can engage in those exercises and your body already knows what to do and how to calm down. If you don't practice any, e.g., "paced breathing" at all and then try using the exercise in the middle of your presentation because you are super anxious, the exercise most likely won't do anything for you because you aren't used to it. You also wouldn't expect participating in a marathon with zero practice and making it. No! You would practice and exercise to build up the necessary stamina and control over your body. It's similar with relaxation exercises. Don't only use them when you are super anxious. Practice them first. Get used to them. Give it time. And then, when you get super anxious, these exercises can help calm you down. A word of caution, though: Even if you practice a lot of paced breathing, don't expect to go from a 75 stress level down to a 10 just because you are breathing slowly... You are more likely to go from a 75 to a 55, allowing you to be more in the moment and think more clearly. But you are still going to be nervous.

  5. Find a save person to look at, or purposefully look over/past your audience. During your presentation, especially while you are extremely nervous, you might sometimes misinterpret facial or body expressions of others. Because of this, it can be helpful to identify one or two people to shift your gaze between. If you give them a heads up because you trust them, they also won't think you are a weirdo for only looking at them ;) Alternatively, or in conjunction, you can also choose to look at a spot in the room next to your audience, between your audience, above your audience - close enough to your audience that everybody keeps thinking you are looking at them, while you actually are not looking at anyone. This assures that you aren't misjudging your audience's body language and that you can simply focus on your presentation.

Of course, these tips won't work for everyone as everyone experiences anxiety differently. If you continue to struggle with presentation anxiety, it might be time to seek professional help from an experienced therapist.

How TruU Psychology Can Help

TruU Psychology offers specialized treatment for presentation anxiety. Dr. Dominic Schmuck specializes in working with driven professionals experiencing mental health-related difficulties in their personal and/or professional lives. Having someone experienced help you navigate your challenges can make all the difference!

If you want to begin the process of healing, contact us by calling/texting (385) 200-0204 or emailing today to get started. You can also schedule a free 15-minute consult here. If no timeslot appears through the link, then we likely have a waitlist. Call/text/email instead.

I can work with clients in over 40 PSYPACT participating states.


Start your healing journey with evidence based therapy by TruU Psychology

Get Started on Your

Healing Journey

bottom of page