How to Sleep Well the Night Before a Big Presentation

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I don’t think anyone would disagree with me that sleep is important, but how are you supposed to sleep well the night before a big presentation? That’s a tough one because most people fall into one of two camps:

  • Can’t Sleep Because of Their Nerves – Most people fear public speaking, that isn’t anything new, and even seasoned professionals have some anxiety about presentations. (It’s a good thing actually.) Sometimes these nerves get the best of us and make it difficult to sleep the night before a presentation.
  • Can’t Sleep Because Mind is Racing – Many presenters continually go over the presentation in their head throughout the day when they are not rehearsing and it is difficult to sleep because they’re still rehearsing, even silently in their head. When these presenters try to turn off their brain to relax enough to fall asleep, their brain keeps running through the presentation.

9 Tips to Sleep Well the Night Before a Big Presentation

  1. Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute – Hopefully, you’re not stalling and reading this blog post the night before your big presentation and you still haven’t started yet. Usually, presenters know about thought leadership presentations months in advance and you even have a week or two heads up for bid presentations, so you shouldn’t be forced to rush everything. Start preparing your presentation early because your brain will continually improve your presentation while you’re working on other things.
  2. Outline, Don’t Script – Writing out what you plan to say word-for-word adds unnecessary stress to you and makes it harder to prepare for your presentation. After brainstorming your ideas, craft an outline and use that to practice your speech until you can wean yourself off of it. Never script your presentation!
  3. Be Prepared – I always preach that great presentations are well prepared for and preparing for your presentation will minimize your nerves and allow you to sleep well the night before.
  4. Dress Rehearsal(s) – Some presenters worry about the small, microscopic percentage that something catastrophic will happen like they fall down, their shirt won’t be buttoned, or their visual aid won’t work. Doing a dress rehearsal will help reduce those fears as well because you’ll know you can make your natural hand gestures in the jacket you plan on wearing and you’ve tested your PowerPoint on the computer and projector you’ll be using for your actual presentation.
  5. Break Your Presentation Into Chunks – A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about breaking up your Q&A (Questions & Answers) to make it easier for the audience to stay engaged and ask questions when they’re still relevant. Splitting up your presentation also makes it easier to practice and rehearse (including in your head when you’re trying to fall asleep) because you can do it in small bits instead of having to run through the whole thing every time.
  6. Expect It to Be Different – Many presenters dread that they’ll accidentally say something different in their presentation than they planned to say. Don’t let this worry force you to script out your presentation. As you practice your presentation, your word selection will change and get better. During your presentation, you will say things differently; that is only natural and why public speaking is not like acting. I tell my clients that their wording in practice is awesome and what they say during the presentation is just a different type of awesome.
  7. Relax – Take a few deep breaths and rest assured that you’re well prepared. Go through your presentation once last time before bed and go to bed!
  8. Plan to Arrive Early – Figure out how long it takes you to travel to the room you’re presenting in and add extra time. Even if you’re presenting at a conference and all you need to do is go downstairs, plan extra time because you don’t want to be rushed. Set an extra alarm to get out the door early (or to make sure you don’t oversleep).
  9. Breath – Just before you go on stage, take a big deep breath to remain calm and focused. Before bed, do the same thing and take a few good deep breaths. I’m a fan of meditation and yoga, both methods help me to relax. Find something that helps you to calm down, unwind, and relax so you can sleep well.

As always, a great presentation relies on good preparation, including trying to sleep well the night before a big presentation. Preparing calms your nerves and allows you to enjoy your presentation, which ultimately is more audience-centric.

Additional Resources

How Speak Simple Can Help You

Win more work, increasing your billing rate, and prospects coming to you are all results of being an excellent presenter. Erica Olson created Speak Simple to help technical professionals to become comfortable presenting and excel at each presentation, whether a bid presentation or an educational, content marketing presentation. Learn more about Speak Simple’s flagship program is SpeakU, a self-guided presentation training program.

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