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  • Writer's picturePeter Yawitz

Do I look as nervous as I feel?

When I coach people on public speaking and presentation skills, one of the most common questions I hear is “I feel SO nervous! Do I look nervous?” In many cases, the answer is an emphatic NO.

How can that be? Because a great number of nervous symptoms—such as butterflies, pounding heart, dry mouth, and moments of forgetfulness, among many others—are simply not detectable to anyone but the person feeling them. Your audience can’t see butterflies, dry mouth or a pounding heart. And brief moments of forgetfulness seem much longer to speakers than they do to listeners: we just don’t know that your mind went blank unless you announce it.

Of course, some symptoms are visible, too. But there are many tips and techniques for managing them, even if they never go away. The good news is that there is not much connection between a speaker’s effectiveness and whether or not he or she feels nervous. Seeing yourself on videotape can be great confirmation of this. Most people are happily surprised to find they come across as much more poised than they thought.

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