Use Nervous Energy to Your Advantage

Being nervous when speaking in public is actually a good thing. The Public Speaker explains how it can actually help you speak more confidently and effectively.

Lisa B. Marshall
2-minute read

Use Nervous Energy to Your Advantage

Speaking in front of others involves risk. The risk of making a mistake. The risk of not knowing something. The risk of being judged. The risk of appearing stupid.

How to overcome speaker’s anxiety is probably the single most common question I get. For some people, the fear of speaking publicly is debilitating. They avoid making presentations, attending meetings, or even going to dinner parties because of this fear. Others mention physical responses: turning red, a shaky voice, feeling sick. For others it’s just a mild sensation of nervous energy, a dry mouth or maybe a faster pulse.

But here’s the secret to great public speaking: It requires nervous energy!

In my experience, it is rare is for someone NOT to feel some nervous energy when standing up in front of an audience. Whether we are about to be attacked by a tiger, or about to deliver a speech, the brain perceives physical or psychological stress. Instantly, it starts pumping chemicals through your body. Your heart beats faster. Your blood pressure increases. Your senses sharpen.

Having this response is a GOOD thing. Extra nervous energy helps us. Research suggests it can help you perform tasks more efficiently and can improve memory. Good stress is something we want. Good stress stimulates us. Use the energy to show your passion for the subject matter of your presentation.  Use the energy for a stronger voice and varied inflection. Use the energy to move around the room. Use the energy to encourage interaction.

By channeling your nerves into creating positive attributes to your speech, you can utilize them to your advantage.

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.