For some individuals, giving a presentation is a nightmare. They panic at the idea of speaking in public, and it is the most frightening thing in the world for them to have to consider. The thought of talking in front of an audience can almost bring some people to their knees. And let’s not forget the sweat and the heart palpitations. Does this sound like you?

Nerves happen to the best of us, even award-winning British actor Hugh Grant suffers from stage fright and put his acting career on hold because of it. Statistics claim that 74% of Americans suffer from some form of speech anxiety: 75% of women and 73% of men. Public speaking nerves can range from a few butterflies to an all-out panic attack, but there are ways you can boost your confidence before a presentation.

Practice makes perfect.

If you’re the nervous type, don’t think it’s enough to write your presentation, read through it once and be done with it. The only way you will overcome those nerves is to practice, practice, and practice some more. It may be tough due to your busy schedule, but you must find time to do it. It may also be useful to record a number of your rehearsal sessions to catch any bad habits, as well as any timing and vocal issues that you may not be aware of.

Be positive.

There is no denying that the scariest moment is right before you start. But it is important to put things in perspective and look at it from a positive outlook. You have obviously put a lot of time and effort into your presentation. So, revel in that fact. Focus on the value you are giving your listeners and let your speech do the rest. Offer yourself some kind words before stepping up to present – a mini pep-talk so to speak. Words such as, “you are confident” and “you are inspiring” will be beneficial.

Listen to other presenters.

If your presentation is part of a series of talks, you may find value in attending some of the earlier sessions. It will enable you to gauge the crowd and see how receptive they are to one-liners or jokes. Do they seem open to learning, or are they more formal and stiff in their listening approach? This information will aid you immensely and assist you in understanding how they will respond to what you have to say.

Embrace your nerves.

Don’t pretend your nerves don’t exist. Stevie Nicks said, “If you have stage fright, it never goes away. But then I wonder: is the key to that magical performance because of fear?” Acknowledging your nerves and tuning into it may make your speech even better. It shows you care about the audience you are speaking to. Give your nerves their moment, push them to the side and use the excitement to your advantage.

Take deep breaths.

Take deep breaths to counteract the stress, so that the nerves won’t affect your speaking voice and take hold of the muscles in your chest and throat. Long, slow breaths will interrupt your urge to flee and bring on a more relaxed state of mind. Simple exercises in the days leading up to your presentation will guide you through in one piece.

Maintain a smile.

A friendly smile can wipe away the anxiety in an instant. It helps relax the body by releasing endorphins and creates confidence and self-assurance. Don’t overdo it, however, as it can come across as looking forced or just downright odd. While you may not necessarily want to smile, think of it as a way to inspire your confidence. Smile and demonstrate your readiness to talk, even if you don’t feel like it deep down inside.

Arrive early.

If you turn up early, you will be able to check out the design of the room. Simply viewing the seating plans along with the layout of the electronics, microphone and lighting, can put you at ease. Feeling comfortable in the space will reduce the buildup of stress. Run through the first 60 seconds of your speech in your head, addressing the imaginary crowd in front of you. If you can present with a strong opening, your presentation will flow smoothly.

If presenting is a standard part of your career, then consider enrolling in a public speaking course. Warren Buffet, philanthropist and investor, used to be terrified of giving presentations. But he understood that if he didn’t eventually get over his fears, he would never get ahead in his career. So he took it upon himself to enroll in a public speaking course, and the rest, as they say, is history.