Amy Carroll » Speaking Tips » Controlling Your Nerves–Part 1

Controlling Your Nerves–Part 1


I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic of controlling my nerves before I speak. While my nerves have settled over time (if you struggle, I promise it gets better with practice), they still flair up. If the setting is different, if there’s someone I esteem in the audience, or if I haven’t had time to prepare, I can still find myself overwhelmed with nervousness.

At She Speaks last summer, I felt fine on the stage in front of 400+ women, but I fell apart when I had to read introductions at the beginning of breakouts. Go figure!

Nerves can hit at the strangest times, but with a few tips, we can learn to manage them. This series is a “re-run”, but I thought it was a topic it would be useful to revisit. Today’s is fantastic advice from Lysa TerKeurst!

You have less than 5 seconds to make your first impression on an audience.  If those first 5 seconds are spend shuffling notes, grabbing the podium for dear life, and trying to catch your run away breath… your audience will start to feel as nervous as you do.

The best way I know to calm my nerves right away and set the audience at ease is to make the first words out of my mouth something I can say confidently and boldly without notes and without hesitation.  After just a few profound sentences that lead my audience to know the exact point of my message, I transition into a personal story that relates to my point.

Personal stories are great because you don’t need notes, your personality can shine through, and people are captivated by stories.  When you feel you have your audience captivated, your nerves will dissipate!  It’s amazing what confidence this builds in you and what connection it creates with the audience.

My only word of caution is to remember your transition from the end of your story back to the point of your message.  You don’t want to make it all the way down the field only to fumble at the goal line.  I have no idea why I just used a sports analogy, but it worked.

Happy speaking sweet friends!

lysaLysa TerKeurst is a New York Times bestselling author and speaker who helps everyday women live an adventure of faith through following Jesus Christ. As president of Proverbs 31 Ministries, Lysa has led thousands to make their walk with God an invigorating journey.

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  1. Great advice! What if you can’t find a personal story that relates to your topic? Is it fine to tell a funny story that happened while you were preparing your message, before you introduce it?

    1. Rose,
      Great question! It’s ok to tell the funny story if it relates to your topic, but I wouldn’t if it’s what I’ve labeled “yada yada”. (This term came about from identifying extraneous information in my own messages, so please don’t be offended. :))

      The bar that I set for myself and my clients is to create “laser-like” messages with every word wrapped around one powerful, memorable truth. If you don’t have a personal story, you can use stories from other sources. Just be careful to give credit to the original source in some way (ie. “I read this story written by Max Lucado the other day…”), and make sure it’s fresh. We don’t want to repeat stories that everyone has received in their inbox as a forward.

      Sometimes it just takes thinking about your story in a different light to see a different point you can make. I have a story about a dog we had that was quite the escape artist. I’ve used the same story to illustrate several different spiritual truths in several different talks.

      Thanks for the terrific question, Rose!

      1. Not offended at all :). I appreciate your in-depth answer! Thanks!