The Nervous Speaker

I was meeting with a colleague the other day and we were sharing what services we offer. When I mentioned I teach a public speaking seminar he said “Oh, I could use that.” I had to pause because I attended a presentation he gave and I thought he did a great job, which I shared with him.

He told me he gets very nervous when he speaks and feels like a little kid. I often hear this from people who otherwise seem outgoing and comfortable with themselves. People think because they are nervous they aren’t good speakers. The truth is everyone gets nervous speaking in front of others, even professional speakers.

As a professional speaker, I have given numerous presentations and trainings and I always get nervous, especially when the audience is quiet or not smiling. But, my evaluations consistently come back with high scores and comments about how confident I am and what a great speaker I am.

Being nervous means I care about doing a good job. The adrenalin I feel gives me energy and a powerful voice. But, nerves can be disabling to some people, like the woman who fainted in my Toastmasters club. The key is learning how to control your nerves, or as they say in Toastmasters, “get your butterflies to fly in formation.” 

One of the best things you can do is to be videotaped when you give a presentation. Usually when people view themselves they are surprised by how calm and comfortable they seem. That’s because while our minds are actively worrying, criticizing and judging our performance the audience usually doesn’t see that. It’s all internal.

So, next time you are faced with giving a speech, know your nervousness is normal and that the audience most likely won’t notice.

Let me know how your next presentation goes.

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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>


  1. Beth Buelow, ACC, The Introvert Entrepreneur on November 15, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Arden, you are a marvelous speaker, and it’s good to know that you get nervous, too! I recommend aspiring speakers read Scott Berkun’s “Confessions of a Public Speaker.” He affirms what you say about everyone – from the novice to the professional – getting butterflies. Like you say, it’s a signal that we care! He also makes the point that practice, practice, practice is the key to getting more comfortable. You are an inspiration to me, you get out there so much! Thanks for a great post 🙂

  2. Arden Clise on November 23, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Thanks Beth. Yes Scott Berkun’s book is great. Practice does make a huge difference! When I first spoke publicly my knees were knocking so hard I could barely stand up, my lips stuck to my teeth due to no saliva, but I got through it and over time I became much more comfortable.

    I’m thrilled to see you speak at Ignite on December 7. That’s big!

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