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Is There a Difference Between Fear and Nervousness in Public Speaking?

Nancy Daniels, Voice Coach


S
ome people are terrified just by the thought of public speaking; other people are nervous right before and during the opening of their speech or presentation. Is there a difference between the two? Most definitely.


Fear is debilitating while I find nervousness to be a blessing.

Webster’s Dictionary defines fear as “an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.”

In public speaking, those who experience true fear have difficulty preparing, rehearsing and delivering their material because of the anticipation of danger, specifically injury, pain or loss. What is the actual danger in public speaking? As I mentioned in another article, while the majority of the population may be more afraid of public speaking than death, no one has yet died while delivering a speech or presentation and I seriously doubt that you will be the first to claim that honor!

So, the good news is that you will not die, whether you do a great job or a not-so-memorable one! What other danger does public speaking present? Forgetting your material or losing your train of thought? Those are not dangers. They are misfortunes, but they are not dangerous. In neither of those situations will you be harmed, possibly embarrassed but definitely not physically harmed.
Nervousness, on the other hand, can be very beneficial because the rush of adrenaline heightens your senses and increases your awareness.

While the description of nervousness encompasses a variety of emotions and physical traits – from sinewy, strong, or spirited, to excited, jumpy, or apprehensive – it never once mentions the word danger.

The real difference between fear and nervousness is that fear is debilitating and produces only negative results. Nervousness, on the other hand, can be very beneficial because the rush of adrenaline heightens your senses and increases your awareness.

I had a client who was being ‘ordered’ by her boss to give presentations on mortgages at the various branches of the bank for which she worked. What this woman experienced was not nervousness but debilitating fear. When she stood to introduce herself during our group session, she later admitted that she had thought she was going to vomit (and that was just a personal introduction!).

After learning how to breathe with the support of her
No one has yet died while delivering a speech or presentation and I seriously doubt that you will be the first to claim that honor!
diaphragm, the fear went away and she then approached her presentations with a nervous energy that she was able to harness. To this day, Diane is successfully speaking weekly at the various branches and cannot get over what a difference breathing has made in her life.

It is truly the best means of controlling nervousness in any form of public speaking.








International Speaker and Voice Specialist, Nancy Daniels, has been involved in voice training since 1977. A graduate of Gettysburg College with a BA in music, she discovered the techniques for improving the sound of the speaking voice while in graduate school at American University in Washington, D.C.

In addition to her guest speaking engagements, Nancy offers private, corporate and group workshops in voice training and public speaking skills throughout the United States and Canada. For those are unable to work with her directly, there is Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. For more information on voice training, future workshops, and Voicing It!, visit her Voice Dynamic website. http://www.voicedynamic.com



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