Never tell your audience you are nervous!

Never apologize to an audience before you speak. Never say things like: “I am nervous about public speaking” or “I am new at this topic. So please bear with me.”  

Let’s face it: If you are truly nervous, the audience will soon find out. So telling them beforehand is nto going to help you.


The irony is that very often we feel a lot more nervous inside than it is shown outside. Even the best speakers feel a bit nervous before speaking but they don;t show it. Likewise, your audience may not even know that you are nervous. So why confess? Remember: We are often the harshest judge of our own performance.  

When you apologize at the outset by saying that you are new at the topic, you are telling your audience to expect a bad presentation. You are telling your audience not to listen to you. In fact, you are destroying your own credibility before you have a chance to demonstrate you have it. This is like going to battle and telling your enemy that you are weak and asking him to slaughter you. Does not make any sense at all.


There are more practical tips in my book.


5 responses to “Never tell your audience you are nervous!

  1. hello… i agree with what you have posted… i am always the nervous type but i try not to show that i am… thanks for sharing the info… have a nice day… 🙂

  2. Anthony Marsanne

    Dear Norman,

    I read with attention your advise about the way to speak face to an audience.
    You explain people not to apologize when they speak and to show they are strong.
    You use the words ennemy – battle – slaughter ; as if an audience was always against the speaker. it is true that an audience expect a lot of the speaker but they are not always like wolves who want to eat the speaker.
    Being nervous as you say is completly natural, and to face this feeling, there are several solution. The speaker may be a big liar and makes as if he was easy, but he may also tell the truth and explain frankly he feels nervous, first it makes him human and close to the audiance and second this solution is a way to calm down and become cooler because he may share its stress with someone else so that it is less heavy for himself.
    Telling your emotions, especially when your are nervous allow to decrease the effect of them and to feel more comfortable.
    Speaking to an audiance is not a fight, it is a partnership between 2 groups of person.

    The first group (the speaker) takes the responsibility to bring something (to teach) to the second group (the audience), which takes the responsibility to make everything to understand and apply what the speaker says.
    This last sentence may appear very optimistic but this is anyway what a speaker should explain his audience at the begining of every speech or training.

    best regards


  3. Anthony Marsanne

    Audience always expect a lopt from the speaker but audience is not a group of wolves who wants to eat the speaker.
    The words you used : battle, ennemy, slaughter are far to strong when dealing with facing an audience.
    audience is not the ennemy, it is a partner. the speaker has to explain the members of the audience he will bring something to them (to teach) and help the audience to do everything to try to understand and apply what the speaker explains.
    Concerning stress, as you said, it is completely natural for the speaker to be nervous. he/she may show he/she is very easy, but may also use humour or frankly explain he/she is stressed by speaking in front of people. Explaining and telling your emotions allow you to decrease your stress and to share your difficulty with the other and then feel more comfortable.
    you are not weak when you say : “My aim today is to deal with this topic, I will try to do it without showing I am nervous …” you are just honnest and it is a way to be closer to your audience.

  4. Anthony,

    Thank you for your comments. There are basically TWO reasons people make a presentation or give a speech: To tell people something or to get people to do something. If you tell your audience that you are not sure of yoruself, you lose credibility right away and the audience will not listen to you. If you tell them you are nervous, they will not follow you and do what you want them to do.

    Back to my military analogy: If an army general tells his troops that he is really nervous and he thinks his side is going to lose and he has no strategy to win, how many soldiers do you think will follow him into battle?

    You mentioned “partnership”. Do you want to partner with a nervous and unsure person?

    You don’t have to tell your audience you are nervous. If you are really nervous, they will know right away without yourtelling them. My point is that you shoudl nto tell people you are nervous because you may not be as nervous as you think you are. As I said, people are much harshe critic of their own performance.

  5. Pingback: Should a Speaker Apologize to the Audience? | Six Minutes

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