Most speakers, including professional speakers, feel nervous before
and at the start of a speech.
normal; nervousness is good.
easily *control their nerves by following a few basic guidelines.
What! I have to give a speech? When a person (children and adults
alike) discovers that he must give a speech, his primary concern is,
"How in the world will I control my nerves?". This concern is a legitimate
one. As noted earlier, speaking in public is the number one fear of
most adults. Based on my experiences in the classroom, I feel
it is critical to address nervousness before you teach the techniques
for preparing and constructing a speech.
What? Me Worry?
When the subject of nerves comes up, there is both good news and bad
news. The bad news is that, more than likely, the speaker will be
nervous. A student who feels nervous should not feel alone or different
from anyone else. Feeling nervous before a speech is perfectly normal.
Almost all speakers, including professionals, experience nervousness
before they speak. Likewise, athletes, rock stars, actors, and other
performers feel nervous before a game or performance. Even students
who thoroughly prepare for an exam feel nervous as the teacher passes
out the exam.
The good news is that nervousness is not only normal—it is beneficial.
Nervous energy is energy. All speakers, athletes, performers, and
test takers can use this energy to their advantage. When we become
nervous, our bodies release a hormone called adrenaline into our bloodstream.
Adrenaline causes symptoms such as a faster heartbeat, sweaty palms,
a dry mouth, and "butterflies" in the stomach. Adrenaline also gives
us an energy boost—it "pumps" us up and helps us achieve greater results.
Most students interpret this "adrenaline rush" as their body telling
them that they are not ready to give a speech. In reality, just the
opposite is true. The body is telling the athlete, student, or speaker:
You are ready—go for it! In regards to giving a speech, I usually
tell students that the FEAR that they feel actually means Feeling
Excited And Ready.
Nervousness usually occurs just before and during the first few moments
of a speech. After that, most speakers start to forget about themselves
and focus on their topic. At this point, a speaker will "kick in"
and the nervousness subsides. This transition is often obvious to
the experienced speakers in an audience.
Tips to Help Beginning Speakers Control Nerves
1. Pick a topic that interests you. If you have a passion for
a topic, you will reach the "kick in" point quickly. This desire to
share your passion with an audience will overcome the feeling of nervousness.
2. Pick a topic that you know well. You should avoid presenting
material with which you are unfamiliar. New material combined with
the discomfort of being in front of an audience can be disastrous
to the beginning speaker. When you know your topic well, you have
reserve energy to control nerves.
3. Use props. When you use props, you have something to show.
This eliminates the discomfort of feeling that everyone is looking
4. View every speech as a test run. I strongly believe that
teachers should grade every speech a student gives. I also believe
that teachers should factor this grade into the student's course grade.
This encourages students to take their speaking assignments seriously
and put forth a positive effort.
However, do not put undue pressure on the beginning speaker. I always
tell students that speech class and school itself is a "laboratory":
"We are all going to work together. We are experimenting to prepare
ourselves and others to lead fruitful, productive lives. There is
no such thing as the perfect speech. You are expected to make mistakes.
You will make mistakes. That is good. We learn from our mistakes.
By evaluating each speaker's speech, we will learn from one another.
We will learn what makes a speech effective and why. Every time you
speak or participate in an exercise, you will be a better, more confident
speaker. The only way you can fail is—if you don't try."
Nervous energy is energy. If properly controlled, it can be used to
the speaker's advantage.