Are You Nervous When You Speak in Public? Good!
“There are only two types of speakers in the world: the nervous and liars.”– Mark Twain, American author
As a speaker, you may believe you should eliminate your nervousness when you speak. However, if you did, you would be eliminating a vital part of speaking.
Your nervousness may not be a pleasant state. However, you might change your mind when you find out below why it significantly helps you speak to your audience.
Below are the reasons you are nervous, how to control your nervousness, and how to make your nervousness work for you.
Reasons You Are Nervous
The root reason you get nervous when you speak in front of an audience is to wonder what they are thinking about you. You may imagine they are thinking to themselves, “Is this speaker competent about their subject?” “Is this interesting?” “I am annoyed by this speaker’s body language.”
Some speakers (maybe you are one of them) try to be someone they are not. This also causes nervousness because you are not comfortable being a person you are not.
The cure for this is to be who you are. Tell the audience a relevant personal story. Use humor in your presentations the way you would in conversation with another person. If you have a quirky mannerism or body movement, use it in your presentation appropriately.
Your audience has come to see, hear, and experience you speaking, not someone else. So simply give them what they want – you!
The first step in overcoming your nervousness is to recognize its causes. The second step is to learn how to control your nervousness. Notice I did not say eliminate your nervousness. More on this later.
Controlling Your Nervousness
You probably would agree that action follows thought. Have you ever considered that thought follows action? It’s true. You may be saying this is being false to others. That may be true in the short term, but as you “act” confident in your speaking, you will become confident in reality.
Most children love to be actors. They love to portray someone else. To a great extent, in their minds, they do become the person they are portraying. Maybe you were one of these child actors.
Norman Vincent Peale, in his book The Power of Positive Thinking, calls this the “Act as If” principle. You can use this principle to control your nervousness and advance your speaking ability significantly.
Recognizing the causes of your nervousness and learning how to control your nervousness are essential. However, the best speakers know how to make their nervousness work for them.
Another way to prevent your nervousness before it happens is to practice, practice, practice. As I have pointed out before, Brian Tracy, the self-development expert, says, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does make permanent.” As you perform in practice, you will perform at your actual presentation.
How to Make Nervousness Work for You
I said above you want to control your nervousness, not eliminate it. Why is this important?
Your controlled nervousness produces your enthusiasm in your presentation.
Have you ever seen a speaker so thoroughly familiar with their subject that their presentation seems to be hum-drum, stale, and boring? These speakers lack controlled nervousness which is essential to your enthusiasm when you speak.
One way to control your nervousness is to convert your nervousness into gestures, facial expressions, and body movements. In the age of virtual presentations, this may seem difficult. However, you can always stand, backup from your camera, and display more body movement in a virtual presentation. It isn’t the same as being in person, but it gives your audience the next best thing without being in person, in front of them.
You will have to practice your gestures, facial expressions, and body movements, but it is a great way to control your nervousness.
Another way to control your nervousness is to learn to enjoy speaking on your subject during your presentation. This will come through to the audience, which will show its enthusiasm for your subject with applause, smiles, and attentiveness.
A third and final way to control your nervousness is to encourage audience questions. This is an easy way to obtain clues as to how to “on the fly” change your presentation to better fit what your audience wants.
The requirement for you here is never to get asked a question you have never been asked before. Make sure your practice audience ask you every possible question on your topic, and you formulate the best possible answer before your presentation.
You have learned to recognize the causes of your nervousness, learned how to control your nervousness, and how to make your nervousness work for you.
Being nervous when you are speaking in front of an audience is essential to good speaking. However, you must learn to control your nervousness and use it to increase your gestures, facial expressions, and body movement.
Use the complete set of gifts you have been given, including learning how to control and exploit your nervousness when you speak, to deliver your best presentation.
Call to Action
In your presentations from now on, analyze why you’re nervous
Use the methods in this article to control your nervousness
Use the methods in this article to use your nervousness to increase your gestures, facial expressions, and body movement
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”— Eleanor Roosevelt
Frank DiBartolomeo is a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and award-winning speaker, presentation and interview skills coach, and Professional Member of the National Speakers Association. He was awarded Toastmasters International’s highest individual award, Distinguished Toastmaster, in 2002 because of his outstanding work in public speaking and leadership.
Frank formed DiBartolomeo Consulting International (DCI), LLC (www.frankdibartolomeo.com) in 2007. The mission of DCI is to help technical professionals to inspire, motivate, and influence their colleagues and other technical professionals through improving their presentation skills, communication, and personal presence. Frank can be reached at email@example.com and (703) 509-4424.
Don’t miss Frank DiBartolomeo’s latest book!
“Speak Well and Prosper: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Better Presentations”