As you begin your speech or presentation, if your hands and knees are shaking and your voice is a bit unsteady, is it better to acknowledge this publicly or not? Is this an elephant in the room, similar to the missing tooth Lexi told us about in her excellent comment on my post The elephant in the room?
A client was saying the other day that he’d read it was a good idea to confess to nervousness up front, that it’s endearing and helps get the audience on your side. I can see why someone would think this but I disagree.
First of all, there’s a good chance your nervousness is not an elephant at all but a gorilla. To you, it’s glaringly obvious you feel sick with nerves, but the audience honestly may not notice. Drawing attention to it will not only make sure everyone is aware of how insecure you’re feeling but will also make it even more real for you. The aim is to convince everyone – yourself included – that you’re taking this speech or presentation in your stride. Enjoying it, in fact.
Nervousness in a speaker is the biggest distraction of all. Far from drawing attention to your discomfort, you owe it to your audience – and to yourself – to keep those nerves hidden. In order to protect yourself and to allow the audience to relax and concentrate on what you’re telling them, put on your public-speaking face and never let the mask slip until you’re well away from the whole situation.