Do You Get Nervous Giving a Speech? 7 Ways to Develop Confidence Speaking

Christopher Witt —  August 20, 2012 — Leave a comment

Scared of Public SpeakingA lot of people — most, in fact — get nervous when giving a speech. They get nervous even thinking about having to give a speech. According to most polls, the majority of people rate the fear of public speaking as their number one fear.

Do you get nervous when you’re giving a speech? Good. You should. It means you’re taking it seriously.

There’s nothing wrong with being nervous. It’s a form of fear, a type of energy that makes us alert, focuses our attention, and prepares us for action. The right amount of nervousness used the right way can improve performance.

Notice the qualifying phrase: “the right amount of nervousness used the right way.”

Too much nervousness is destructive. It can make you forget what you planned on saying, shut you down emotionally and mentally, and even throw you into a full-blown panic attack. It can make you stiff, robotic, unnatural. It can also make your audience nervous on your behalf or, worse, make them think less highly of you. Too much nervousness, in short, is not a good thing.

And you can use nervousness as an excuse to avoid giving presentations. I know professionals who have turned down promotion just so they won’t be put in the spot where they’ll have to make speeches.

So too much nervousness is a bad thing. And using nervousness in the wrong way is also a bad thing.

But the right amount of nervousness used the right way can make sure you put enough time into preparing and practicing your presentation. And it can add dash of energy to your delivery.

How can you reduce your nervousness from “too much” to “the right amount”?

7 Ways to Develop Confidence Speaking

  1. Prepare.
    If you’re not prepared, if you try to “wing it,” you should be nervous. Very, very nervous. Know who your audience is. Decide what your goal is. Prepare an outline.
  2. Simplify.
    You may be trying to do too much in any one speech. Doing so will make you worry about leaving something out or losing your train of thought. Focus instead on one idea. Keep your speech short and simple.
  3. Practice.
    Giving a speech is a skill. And as with any skill, the only way to improve is to practice. Over and over again. (Consider joining a Toastmasters Club.)
  4. Rehearse.
    Talk your presentation through — out loud, if possible — a couple of times before getting up in front of a live audience. Don’t memorize it word for word. Talk it through, point by point, as if you’re explaining your main ideas to a friend.
  5. Breathe.
    Fear makes you hold your breath or to breathe shallowly. Which only makes you more scared. So, take deep breaths through your nose, filling your belly, and let them out slowly through your mouth.
  6. Build rapport with your audience.
    Make them your allies. Talk to people before your presentation. Look them in the eye as you speak to them, one person at a time. When your audience sides with you, your job as a speaker becomes easier.
  7. Settle for good enough.
    Trying to be perfect will only, paradoxically, make you more nervous and more prone to making mistakes. No one expects you to be perfect. (If they do, that’s their problem.) Do the best you can, and learn from the experience. 

 What tips would you share about developing confidence as a speaker? 

 Photo courtesy of Vera Kratochvil at

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Christopher Witt

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Chris Witt was born in Los Angeles, California. He currently lives in San Diego. He works as a speech and presentations consultant, an executive speech coach, and an orals coach.

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