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          Nervousness, performance anxiety, or “Stage Fright” are all terms used to discuss the feelings going on inside of you as you think about or prepare to speak. A feeling of fear is not unusual or out of the norm—it can be a very real and even debilitating feeling. Many singers, actors, and dignitaries have the same feelings before they go on stage to perform. Even the most polished and professional speakers may have them. However, by calling it “Stage Fright” you put the fear into your mind and compound and exacerbate what you are feeling internally. “Mind over matter” is extremely important to you as you begin to work through your feelings about speaking. We recommend using the words “anxious” or “apprehensive” as a way to define those feelings in a more accurate and gentle way. Anxiety is the feeling you may get from the unknown—you are anxious to do your speech, you are anxious to see what the audience thinks of your speech, you are anxious to show your audience what you have worked so hard preparing. You may also be apprehensive because you haven’t told many people about your topic; you are apprehensive about a new situation and audience; you are apprehensive because the topic matters greatly to you and you want it to matter to your audience.

          To better reduce your apprehension and anxiety, you might first start to understand your feelings by asking yourself some initial questions.


Think of the following questions about yourself and two previous speaking occasions in which you felt some type of nervousness.

  • What is your greatest fear?

  • Why do you think you felt the way you did?

  • What makes you the most nervous about giving a presentation?

  • What do you experience? Physically? Psychologically? Emotionally?

  • What has helped you in the past?

          Let your anxiety and apprehension work for you! Remember, mind over matter—you can control it before it controls you. You are in charge! Here are some helpful things to remember about the feelings that may be swirling around inside your body and head during your speech preparation and on the day of your speech:

  • First and foremost, it’s NORMAL.

  • You are psyching yourself up to do a good job

  • Think of it as the apprehension of a new situation

  • You are anxious to convey your message to your audience

  • You care about doing well—you want to do well

  • Introduce yourself to your audience members as they come in

  • Develop a rapport with your audience

  • Breathe

  • Get your speaking notes arranged on the lectern

    • Don’t rush the first part

  • Look up!

  • Establish eye contact with all sides of the audience

  • Pick a friendly face in each third of the audience and talk with them

  • It will become easier to expand your eye contact to others

  • Remember to talk with your audience, not at them

  • Get out and away from the lectern during your speech

    • Helps strengthen your connection with the audience

  • Plan your movement—don’t wander haphazardly

  • Plan and practice your hand movements

    • Work with the “power triangle,” when you rest your hands in front of your body with your fingertips touching—your fingers and thumbs will form a triangle, for extraneous hand movement

  • Don’t tell them you are nervous

  • Your audience does not see inside you

  • Don’t let them see you sweat

  • Be extemporaneous—carry on a heightened conversation

  • Be prepared—the more prepared you are, the more confident you feel

  • Be organized in your message

  • Learn to use your speaking notes to guide you throughout your speech

  • Enjoy the opportunity to share your hard work on the speech and your message with your listeners

  • Practice – Practice – Practice

Review Questions

1) What are some reasons you may feel apprehensive about delivering your speech? 

2) Why should you plan your movement before giving a speech? 

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