Does Public Speaking Make You Nervous? (Part 2)

How to use your own nervous energy to create positive results.

Lisa B. Marshall
5-minute read
Episode #23

Do you feel nervous just before you deliver a presentation? Does your heart race at the thought of speaking in public? Do you avoid opportunities for speaking because it makes you so nervous? Does your voice shake or your face turn red? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then this episode is for you.

What We Learned Last Week

In last week's episode How to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking,  we talked about how just about everyone experiences nervous energy – it’s different for each person, but it is definitely a common, normal feeling. My suggestion was to take advantage of this heightened sense of alertness to help you deliver stronger presentations. Create positive results by transforming your nervous energy. I promised last week several techniques to help you move bad stress to good stress.

So let’s get started.

Practice, Practice, Practice

An extremely effective way to reduce anxiety is to practice. If effective delivery becomes second nature, you’ll certainly be more successful when you are under pressure.

When it comes to presentations, what I have noticed is that many people procrastinate. Waiting until close to the deadline to get started. And once they do, they agonize over each and every slide—adjusting and refining the minutia, until the night before the presentation. When the slides are “done,” they run through the entire presentation in their head, once or twice, or worse they run out of time and just “wing it” with no practice.

An extremely effective way to reduce anxiety is to practice. If effective delivery becomes second nature, you’ll certainly be more successful when you are under pressure.

No wonder they’re nervous.

Of course, YOU would never do that, right? Well, just in case, here are a few suggestions. You know, for those other people.

Do You Practice Properly?

First, practice right away, before the slides are done. How do you do that? By practicing small segments. Just hit record and start talking about the content, maybe two or three minutes, as if you are talking directly to a colleague. (By the way, Viddler and Utterz are good free tools for this.) Practice each segment a few times. Don’t worry about trying to say the same words each time—just focus on your overall message.

In fact, it’s good if each time you are able to talk about the same content in slightly different ways. This will help you to refine your message. In addition, by starting your practice earlier, you can practice these little segments over time, whenever you have a few minutes. And it turns out this type of practice is more effective than trying to do it all at once, so overall you’ll get done faster and you’ll feel less anxious!

The added advantage of practicing in segments is that should a question come up (either before or during the presentation), you’re prepared with a professional polished response that’s perceived as spontaneous.

Finally, be sure to practice the beginning more than the other segments. That’s when the critical first impression is being made and it’s also what your audience is likely to remember. (Of course, that’s exactly why you’re likely to be more nervous).


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.