Tackling Nervousness when Public Speaking

Scared of public speaking? You are not alone! Public speaking is routinely described as one of people’s greatest fears, beating out the fear of heights, flying, and even death!

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Nervousness is usually at the heart of this fear, so overcoming it is a crucial step in becoming a pro speaker.

Where does the nervousness come from?

Often times, people overestimate the stakes of communicating their ideas in front of others and view public speaking as a potential threat to their credibility or image. From this POV, the audience is seen as a hyper-critical judge who is evaluating a presenter’s every move and deciding how worthy of a speaker they are.

Research suggests the universal anxiousness we feel at the thought of being judged stems from pre-historic times, when being part of a group was essential to our survival. So, the “if people don’t like me, I’m going to die” thought was actually real… which explains why standing in the spotlight in front of a crowd gives even the most experienced of speakers a case of the butterflies.

What happens when you get nervous?

When confronted with a life-or-death threat (like how public speaking is often perceived), our brain goes into basic survival mode and responds with fight, flight, or freeze.

Flight and freeze are the most common responses to public speaking:

  • Flight: You avoid public speaking at all costs or, when you absolutely do have to speak, you try to do it as quickly as possible to get it over with
  • Freeze: You feel stiff and artificial as you speak, or your mind draws an absolute blank

How can you overcome your nervousness?

1. Mind over matter.

Nervousness only begets more nervousness, causing you to get lost in your thoughts and spiral in worse case scenarios.

Instead of letting your anxiety carry you away, deliberately choose to take back control  of your feelings and interpret your symptoms (pounding heart, sweaty palms, etc.) as a healthy dose of adrenaline that’s actually needed for delivering a passionate and energetic performance.

2. Take yourself out of the spotlight.

One of the most common public speaking mistakes is making the presentation all about you — what do you want to say, how do you want to say it, why do you think it’s important. No wonder so many people feel personally judged when presenting!

In reality, the presentation should never be about you, it should be about the audience — what do they want to hear, how would be the best way for them to receive the information, why should they care about what’s being said.

This shift in thinking will not only relieve you of the pressures of the spotlight, it will also help you craft a meaningful message your audience will more likely appreciate.

So, before any speaking event, research who the speech is intended for. Learn as much about your audience as you can to help guide your choice of topics and words, level of information, organization pattern, and delivery method. This will result in a well-crafted piece you’ll feel confident (or less nervous) about delivering.

3. Let your personality come through.

While the content of your presentation needs to be centered around the audience, the ideas are brought to life by you and only you. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, share personal anecdotes, and inject your unique humor into the presentation. It’s a lot less nerve-racking to use your own voice to speak about a topic, versus try and mimic someone else’s.

Plus, authenticity establishes better credibility. And your audience will trust what you have to say more if they can see you as a real person.

4. Practice. And remember, practice does not make perfect.

Putting in the requisite time to adequately prepare for your speech will significantly reduce your nerves and help you deliver a better presentation. But mistakes can (and most likely will) happen, so don’t waste time worrying about a possible slip-up. Instead, focus your energy on putting your best foot forward and feeling confident in your well-rehearsed speech.

Happy presenting!

The Art of the 5-Minute Presentation

Here’s a fact that might surprise you:

It’s way harder to make a strong and well thought-out point in 5 minutes, than it is in 10 or 15 minutes!

Makes sense, right? When you have less time to work with, everything you say and do has to serve a specific purpose so you’re making the most out of the few precious minutes you’re given.

  • Maybe you are in an office meeting or client call and want to contribute to the conversation without taking it over 
  • Maybe you’re a really nervous speaker who wants to get a point across, then stop talking as quickly as possible 
  • Maybe you find yourself in a networking event with a potential partner or investor, and you only have a few minutes to spark an interest
  • Or maybe you’re with friends & family and know you only have their attention for a few minutes before someone else (or a smartphone!) takes over the conversation

Whatever the case, here’s the good news:

People are more likely to like and remember what you say if you keep your presentation short, sweet and to the point.

Let’s dig into how:


Understand that the purpose of your presentation is NOT to prove how much you know. Instead, you should use the time to simply give your audience a high-level overview of your idea.

This becomes harder and harder the more you know about a subject. But stop and think – what does my audience absolutely need to know to understand the concept I want to get across?

You can’t go in-depth into anything in five minutes. And if that’s all the time you’ve been given, nobody is expecting anything more than a topline understanding of your points… So deliver exactly that!


Structure your presentation in a way that’s easiest for your audience to follow, digest, and remember. 

When you only have five minutes to work with, you need to move quickly through your presentation—and a way to ensure your audience is following along on every step is to have a clear start, meaty middle, and succinct end.

The formula I like to follow is:

  • Start with the WHAT – what is it that you’re discussing?
  • Fill the Middle with the SO WHAT – why is what you’re discussing important and what’s the relevance to your audience?
  • End with the NOW WHAT – what are the next steps you want your audience to take or do?

Added bonus: this sequential approach will not only help YOU remember what you want to say better, it will help YOUR AUDIENCE better remember your main points too!


Don’t use notes and don’t memorize.

Establishing a strong and genuine connection with your audience is a crucial step in having them trust you and be open to what you have to say. But guess what? Making this connection is near impossible if you’re reading off notes and not making eye contact with your audience… or if you’re so busy trying to remember the exact words/sentences you memorized that you’re not actually present in the room.

Instead, try to remember your flow from one point to the other because this will help you deliver your presentation in a comfortable and relaxed way, which in turn will come off as authentic and trustworthy to your audience.


If you mess up, keep going. Your audience doesn’t know what you don’t tell them – and that’s a beautiful thing you can use to your advantage!

Don’t waste your precious five minutes with apologies or acknowledgements of what you forgot to say or where you went off-script. Keep cool, calm and confident knowing that whatever you missed can be clarified at a later time, through email, or in the Q&A.


Practice, practice, practice! Because practice brings confidence and confidence calms the butterflies.

Getting nervous before a talk, when everyone’s attention is going to be on you, is a perfectly normal feeling. And the anxiety is something that can be overcome with good, consistent practice—especially when short presentations are involved and there isn’t much wiggle room to work with.

So go ahead and practice out loud, record yourself so you can review your performance after, and ask a friend or colleague for their input. The more you prepare for the limelight, the more comfortable and natural you’ll be in it.

And there you have it! A quick guide to mastering the short and sweet presentation without foregoing content or message impact. 


Happy presenting!