Normal To Be Nervous

By Niamh Crowe

It’s all you can do to stop your legs from shaking. Your palms feel sweaty and you feel slightly sick. You think you may just pass out and in front of you is a sea of faces all waiting for you to fail and fall. This is worse than divorce, bankruptcy and even according to some people, death. In a matter of seconds everybody will realize exactly what a terrible, incompetent fraud you really are. Why you? You only ever wanted, after all, a quiet life away from trouble. Why did you ever agree to give that speech?

Let’s get this very quickly into perspective. You are not being confronted with a sabre toothed tiger or a mad axe murderer. Your children are not about to be abducted nor are you about to face a painful death by gladiatorial combat. You are about to make a speech. A speech that will help, inform and even make people happy. The speech is probably not even about you. It is probably about someone you like and perhaps even admire. As a presentation, it is something you have worked very hard on and you want to get that achievement across.

Everyone gets nervous making a speech. It’s a fact and it’s necessary. It is not, however, the end of the world. The fact is, your nerves are healthy and normal and you are in extremely good company. Mark Twain said that there were two types of speakers, the nervous and the liars.
The human body gives us nerves to help us deal with stressful situations. What it does not do is to distinguish between the danger posed by a wild mammoth or the necessity of giving a short speech. The adrenaline produced and whizzing around our systems is exactly the same. Its purpose is to get our blood sugar levels up, give us energy and increased blood flow to our brains to help us think. Known as our ‘flight or flight’ response, we may have adapted to a modern world, but our gut instincts remain exactly the same.

While you may need to tell your body that the rash of nerves you are feeling right now is perhaps a bit of an overreaction, we still need that boost of adrenaline to help us give a good speech. After all we want to make a good impression. We want to sound and to appear engaging and interesting. Before you make that speech, however, you need to get things into perspective.

The three P’s, they say, is the best way to ensure that nerves do not eat you up before your important moment. Planning, preparation and practise. Know what you want to say, know how you will say it and then in front of a mirror or with a tape recorder, practise saying it. Your speech will have taken care of many of these worries. Why not run it by a friend before the big moment? Put these things in order and already you will be feeling slightly less apprehensive about giving the speech.

Some people try and defeat themselves before they even begin. They perceive an audience as a terrifying mass ready to criticize, cajole and even walk out! Visualize them now. They are individuals, just like you. More than this, they are on your side, desperately wanting you to succeed, to make them laugh, to hear the things that you have to say. They want, more than anything, to witness your triumph. Why not try and visualize that too! Your wonderful feelings of accomplishment and pride in your achievement. The feeling you had while you were up there, that was, despite yourself, a wonderful boost of success.

Don’t let the occasion intimidate you. Avoid caffeine and take no more than one alcoholic drink before the speech. Take your time and avoid the temptation to rush your speech through in order to get it over quickly. Work on your breathing, take pauses between sentences. A speech is deliberately written with these pauses and short sentences in mind.

Establish eye contact with individuals in the audience. They are real people like you, willing you on to success. Smile, try and relax and never apologize for your nervous feelings. Most people will never have noticed until you tell them. Above all, think that this speech will be over in a few minutes and you will have changed your perception of yourself.

You will have performed a wonderful service for many other people. They will be grateful and you will be glad you took the time and trouble to use those nerves properly. Your self-esteem will have risen a thousand fold and despite yourself and everything you felt, you may even be sad it’s over. You might even find yourself wondering about the possibility of a next time!

Niamh Crowe
Copyright Speechwriters 1994-2007 Tel. +353 1 8333599

Niamh Crowe is the CEO of the web's leading speech site ( according to and Online since 1994, her site has thousands of speeches for every event and occasion including birthdays, weddings, graduations etc. She lives in Ireland where she is married to Fred. The have 5 children.

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