Why You FEEL Nervous When You Give Presentations

Are you like some of my clients? You would rather die than give a presentation? Whenever you have to give a presentation, you remember some horrific event at school when you wanted to curl up and die? Do you recoil at the thought of getting up in front of people, everyone watching your presentation?

Don't worry, you're in excellent company! Public speaking is the number one fear. But understanding why you feel this fear and feel nervous giving a presentation or public speaking will help you combat them.

Here's what you are actually experiencing...


It is the number one fear and your body and mind react exactly like its a threat to your physical safety. It might be an overreaction, but you feel its full effects. The moment you start thinking about giving your presentation, you experience a full-on threat response.


One of the first things that happens when you experience this threat response is that your throat, lungs and chest become tight. Your body is preparing itself for danger and it does so by tensing you ready for action. So just as you need to use your voice, your body is fighting against you. When you feel nervous, you feel tense.


The next thing that happens is that you start to sweat. All the blood in your body is being sent to the main organs to react quickly, the run away fast. Because all the blood is being drawn to your main organs, you heat up and start to sweat. But at the same time, you might notice that your extremities are really cold - again because all the blood has been drawn away. If you ever get to look at the arms of someone this nervous, you will notice their arms have a mottled quality, because the blood is now pumping to all the main parts. When you feel nervous giving a presentation, you feel sweaty but your hands and nose are cold!


It’s really easy to lose focus when you feel nervous. That’s because in threat-mode, your mind is looking and listening to every little thing. It’s trying to guess where the threat will come from. Your hearing and sight actually improves during this time. And that’s why you suddenly notice your boss’s reaction to the presentation, or the sound of your own voice through the microphone.


When you start to feel nervous, your reality shifts. That’s right, your perception of reality actually changes. Nervous people experience different brain waves which alter your entire experience of time and space. That’s why people sometimes speak ridiculously quickly while delivering a presentation, they’re experiencing the world at a whole different speed to us!


When you feel nervous in a presentation or giving a speech, the analytical part of our brain, the left side tries to take over. It’s busy thinking hard about the worst thing that can happen, and working out routes to escape. When you perform a speech at your best, that part of the brain will almost entirely shut down to help you stay in the zone.

So this is why you experience such strange and distracting sensations when you are nervous about giving a presentation.

Lucky as a presentation skills coach, I've got a ton of tricks and tips that will help you overcome the nerves, even using them to give you energy for the presentation! Once you're no longer experiencing threat, you will start to look forwards to giving presentations and making speeches.

Can't believe it yet? Get in touch with me today!

Mark Westbrook

Public Speaking and Presentation Coach Glasgow.