Apologising for nerves during a speech

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I’ve read a lot of articles and books that mention referring to any nerves you may have as a good way to make light of your fear during a speech.

I’m not sure I agree entirely. I personally feel that this is acceptable for social speeches, such as toasts, wedding speeches.etc, but is not something you should do during a business or professional speech. Unfortunately our corporate culture does not look kindly on perceived weakness! 

So what do you do if you are nervous in a business talk or speech that you have to give?


To avoid nerves in business speech or presentation, preparation is always the best remedy.

If you know all the data, all the facts and all the answers to questions, you’re the expert in the room and you can’t fail.

If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. Sorry, no shortcuts.

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Rich Watts is the UK Business Speaker of the Year and a past JCI National Public Speaking champion. He setup and now runs Rich Public Speaking providing presentation skills and public speaking training.

2 responses on “Apologising for nerves during a speech

  1. Thomas Moss

    I agree 100%, Rich. Preparation is crucial. And once you’re prepared, focus on the message, on the value you’re providing, not on yourself. Sorry, but you really aren’t that significant. What your audience wants is the value you bring to the presentation. To be honest, they’re not there to see “you” at all. They’re only interested in getting value for their investment of time and/or money.

    And you never, ever, tell the audience that you’re nervous. For several reasons. First, when you do that you shift the focus from the presentation to you and your performance. Second, you’re adding to your own discomfort because you’ve called attention to it. Third, and perhaps most important of all, most of the time no one in the audience knows you’re nervous until you tell them. I can’t count the number of times participants in my workshops who have been congratulated on doing a powerful presentation have said “Wow! you couldn’t tell that I was terrified?”

    The audience doesn’t know until you tell them – either by your words or your actions. So just keep singin’ an’ dancin’ and most of the time you’ll warm up and do a great job.

  2. admin Post author

    Thanks Thomas – I’m going to be on the look out now for some prime examples of speakers who make it all about themselves as well as great speakers who really focus on their audience. I’ll see if I can’t get a post out about it in the coming weeks!


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