In this guide, we will answer the question “How to not be nervous while giving a speech” and we will talk about why we tend to feel nervous when we are delivering a speech or a public presentation. We will also mention a few tips on how you could overcome or cope with your nerves and what you could do before giving your speech to feel more relaxed.
How to not be nervous while giving a speech?
When answering the question, ‘How to not be nervous while giving a speech?’ we need to consider how public speaking is not a natural situation, so even the most experienced speakers have a fear of speaking in public. Here are some quick tips on how to overcome your nerves when giving a speech:
- Practice, practice and practice some more. You would like to rehearse as many times as possible but without obsessing about being perfect.
- Do a thorough investigation of the topic.
- Organize the information and avoid memorizing the information. Memorizing will not necessarily guarantee a successful speech.
- Be excited. Transform your nervous energy into excitement.
- Attend other people’s speeches and write down their best practices.
How to not be nervous during public speaking?
Even though delivering a public speech and public speaking may be understood as the same thing but sometimes public speaking won’t necessarily mean you will have to deliver a public speech. It can be that you’ll have to give your opinion in a workgroup or similar situations.
However, the tips we will present apply for public speaking and when you are delivering a public speech, overcoming your stage fright. Our fears come mostly from our thoughts and negative experiences we may have had in the past.
For instance, if you have experienced embarrassment while talking in public then your brain will learn to fear those situations or classify them as ‘threatening’ or ‘dangerous’ even if they are not. This is why it is very important to not only understand why you fear public speaking but also to identify the thoughts that feed the fear. For example, if you think ‘I am afraid to say something stupid’ but are you sure you will? Not really but still our mind will produce these types of thoughts automatically.
Before your speech
To calm your nerves before delivering your speech, try finding a quiet place where you can relax for a few minutes before and if you can’t find a place where you can focus then try the bathroom as your last resort.
Close your eyes for a few seconds and visualize how great you are doing in your presentation. From beginning to end and try engaging those nice thoughts with a breathing exercise. Also, you could try some positive thinking and positive self-talk about your skills, strengths and how you have control over your speech. After all, they are coming to see you so you are the ‘expert’.
Breathing is essential
Yes, breathing is extremely important but you may be thinking that this is not good advice since you breathe even without thinking about it. However, what most people don’t know is, when we are feeling nervous or anxious, our breathing pattern tends to change becoming shallow.
Experts recommend deep breathing exercises such as the Wim Hof technique. Here are some tips on how to nail this technique:
- Find a comfortable place to sit or lay down. The more comfortable you are, the better.
- Breathe in and breathe out. Repeat and go with the flow of the breath.
- Keep breathing in and out feeling how your belly inflates like a balloon.
- There shouldn’t be a pause between inhalation and exhalation. Just keep breathing.
- Do the exercise with a set of 30 repetitions and on the last one let the air in, maintain for a second and then let go.
- Hold your breath for a minute. The idea is to focus your thoughts to the present moment and be aware of your physical reactions (i.e. increased heartbeat).
- After holding the air for 1 minute, take a deep breath and hold for 15 seconds but if you are not able to hold your breath initially for the full minute it is OK, breathe when you must. With practice, you will get better.
- Exhale and repeat the exercise one more time.
Monitor your pace
There is no secret that when a speaker is getting nervous they start to accelerate their pace but it can confuse the audience and they will probably stop paying attention if you go too fast. A good exercise to monitor your pace and tone of voice is to record yourself or ask someone you trust to give you feedback upon delivering the speech you intend to present to the audience.
When delivering your speech, take your time to make pauses and walk around the stage if possible. You will eventually learn to control how your speech is being delivered and you will find your natural rhythm.
This is a very important aspect when delivering your speech. For instance, if you stand solid but try not to sway from side to side. This will give the impression that you are about to fall over so try to put one foot slightly ahead of the other. However, you can move from time to time but make sure you remain solid.
Avoid crossing your arms or putting your hands in your pockets. Face your audience as much as possible and to do this you can focus on someone in the audience or something from the room.
Finally, use your hand gestures to emphasise on your words and keep your audience engaged by varying your gestures. Try to incorporate your head, arms and hands when doing so. Also, if you are delivering a presentation or you have visual aids, point and look at your data. The audience will automatically follow the trajectory of your hands and arms.
Why do I feel nervous about oral presentations?
As indicated by John M. (2010) “Most congress speakers worry about being judged negatively by others. People don’t want to look stupid and don’t want to fail to deliver the correct answers during ‘question time’ (which we spoke about in detail last time). Other reasons why people are nervous during oral presentations involve such things as fear of failure and fear of the unknown, forgetting what you have to say, not having enough to say in the allotted time, having too much to say in the allotted time, feeling inadequate (especially linguistically inadequate) and a general dislike of being ‘put under the microscope’.”
Your palms are sweaty, your stomach is queasy, your mind went blank and you feel paralyzed, not able to move a muscle or on the contrary, wanting to run as fast as you can away from it. Are you familiar with the feeling? Not pleasant at all but why? Simply because no one likes to be judged, criticized or evaluated in front of other people.
We usually associate it with negative experiences, and we probably have a few we can recall that we consider the most ‘traumatic’. Moreover, the physical symptoms that come with can be endured with distress and constantly living with the feeling can be discouraging and frustrating.
Even the most experienced and most practised presenters get a bit nervous but they tend to use their nervous energy and use it to their advantage by communicating with enthusiasm and passion. However, as we have mentioned already, we acknowledge that being nervous from time to time is completely normal but when it starts to impact your life significantly, then, it is time to seek help.
Why is this blog about How to not be nervous while giving a speech important?
Feeling nervous about delivering a speech is completely normal as we have mentioned but we could develop strategies on how to cope with nerves. As we have mentioned, prepare yourself before the speech, practise but don’t get obsessed or try to memorize everything because there is no guarantee that you won’t freeze and forget everything. Just know that this happens even to the more experienced speakers.
Also, try to transform your nervous energy into excitement and keep visualizing your success every time you have to deliver a speech, this will give you a confidence boost. Finally, managing your breathing, body language, tone and pace will help deliver your speech like a professional.
Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about How to not be nervous while giving a speech
How do I get over my fear of public speaking?
If you would like to overcome your fear of public speaking, here are some tips:
– Do thorough research about the topic.
– Practice and prepare thoroughly.
– Don’t memorize.
– Do breathing exercises before delivering a public speech.
– Get help from friends and family.
– Engage your audience.
Why do I get nervous when presenting?
If you feel nervous when presenting there may be several reasons why. First of all, presenting is not a natural activity so even the most experienced people get nervous. Some people fear making mistakes, forgetting what they will say (freeze), being judged by others, among other reasons. However, it is important to identify the reason so you can work on it.
How do I calm my nerves?
Here are some recommendations on how to calm yourself down:
– Take a deep breath.
– Acknowledge you are anxious or angry and understand it is – completely normal.
– Challenge your thoughts and contrast them with reality.
– Visualize yourself calm and relaxed.
– Listen to some relaxing music.
– Keep your mind busy to shift the focus from feeling anxious.
What causes the fear of public speaking?
The fear of public speaking increases when people have to communicate their ideas or opinions in front of other people. It could also happen that you are not confident about what you are saying or you fear saying something embarrassing. Public speaking is perceived as a potential threat or dangerous situation even when it isn’t the case.
What are the signs of speech anxiety?
Some of the signs of speech anxiety are feeling an intense worry or fear of embarrassing yourself. Some of the physiological signs include sweating, blushing, shaking, upset stomach, dry mouth, increased heartbeat, and squeaky voice. However, the symptoms or signs may vary from one person to the other.
Grant, A. (2018, Nov.) 5 ways you can hide your nerves when giving a speech. Retrieved from fastcompany.com.
Genard, G, (2018, Oct.) 5-Minute Technique to Calm Your Fear of Public Speaking. Retrieved from genardmethod.com.
John M. (2010). Message in a body: controlling your nerves during an oral presentation. HSR Proceedings in intensive care & cardiovascular anaesthesia, 2(4), 303–305.
Mindtools.com: “Managing Presentation Nerves”