Tips To Avoid Sounding Nervous When Public Speaking

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Does your voice ‘shake, rattle and roll’ when you stand to introduce yourself or address an audience at the lectern or the boardroom table? When I started my voice improvement business back in 1989, I joined the local chamber of commerce and attended a new members’ orientation. The room was large; there were about 150 attendees; and, the new members had to stand and introduce themselves.


At first I wasn’t concerned until it suddenly dawned on me that that personal introduction was my business. I realized that if I blew my intro I could kiss Voice Dynamic goodbye at which point I began to sweat. My heart was beating so loudly that I could feel it pounding in my cheeks and I was sure the gentleman on the other side of the table could hear it beating as well. I always experience nervousness in public speaking – which is a good thing – but never to this degree.

Finally, it was my turn. I stood; I took a breath; and I proceeded to introduce myself. I sounded calm, collected, confident. They had no idea that I was dying a thousands deaths!
What did I do that most people don’t? I took a breath. Not a huge breath – not a shallow breath – just a deep breath, a breath that went all the way down to my diaphragm. By breathing in this manner, I was totally relaxed from the waist up. (Yes, my knees were shaking but there was a tablecloth to hide that condition!)

As soon as I finished, a man in the back of the room shouted, “That’s The Voice Lady” and so began my career. I knew then that breathing with the support of the diaphragm was what allowed me to control my nervousness and not the other way around. And, it has stood me in good ground ever since.

There are many symptoms of nervousness in public speaking which unfortunately affect the voice and are a dead giveaway that the speaker is not in control: quivering voice; high-pitched tone; and 100 mph in a 65 mph speed zone.

All of these characteristics will go away if you can control your nervousness and allow it to work for you, not against you. I want you nervous. Nervousness is wonderful. Having no control over it, however, is not. My heart goes out to that speaker whose voice quivers because I understand what they are going through.

If you learn to breathe with support and allow your chest cavity to power your voice, you will then be able to control not only your nervousness but your speed as well. The quiver will be gone and your pitch will stay within range.

[Incidentally, all mammals breathe with the support of the diaphragm and as newborns we did as well; but, sometime during our childhood development, we stop that practice and revert to shallow or lazy breathing - it's a medical fact!]

Imagine, standing at the lectern or at the business lunch or at the head of the boardroom table and never letting them ‘hear’ you sweat.

The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels offers private, corporate and group session in voice and presentation skills as well as Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. For more information visit:

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