My column in this month’s Business People: “I get nervous when I don’t get nervous”

I wrote this for the February issue of Business People. If you’d like to learn more strategies for more effective public speaking and presenting, I’m teaching Powerful Presentation Strategies: Mastering Public Speaking and PowerPoint®, a two-week class, at IPFW on Tuesday, February 22, and Tuesday, March 1, from 6 – 9 pm. To learn more, call (260) 481-6619 or click here.

“I get nervous when I don’t get nervous”: Great presentation advice from Beyonce

Even a rock n’ roll guy like me has to admit that Beyonce Knowles is one of the most talented women in the world. She’s a great singer and dancer. Her lyrics tell a story.And she’s beautiful, which never hurts. I’d argue, however, that the true key to her success is a sense of urgency about her performances. She wants to do well. She’s eager for the audience to respond. And she uses that energy as a motivator.

“I get nervous when I don’t get nervous,” Beyonce says. “If I’m nervous I know I’m going to have a good show.”

While most of us will never perform in front of thousands of people, we’re occasionally onstage as presenters in the business world.

In conference rooms, at trade shows, and at meetings, our audiences come to us looking for information, along with a little entertainment. It’s a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate what we can do and whatwe have to offer. Unfortunately, however, many don’t take advantage of this opportunity because of a four-letter word beginning with “F.”


Fear holds us back. Fear makes us avoid the spotlight. And perhaps worst of all, fear inhibits us from taking chances with our presentations, which makes them boring, whichin turn makes for a lukewarm audience response, and which ultimately makes us less confident the next time we present.

Fear builds upon itself. But it doesn’t have to.

As someone who enjoys making presentations, I’m often asked how I overcome any anxiety before I speak. Whether I’m talking to a young professional or someone more seasoned, my answer is always the same: I don’t seek to overcome my anxiety—I just try to channel it into energy that makes my presentations even better.

One of the reasons we fear presentations is that there’s usually something at stake. Maybe we’re presenting to an important client. Maybe we’re hoping to turn a prospect into a customer. Or maybe we have put a lot of time into a presentation and we just want to be recognized for doing a great job. It’s natural, then, to be anxious about the outcome.

I’ll take this a step further, though: it’s actually good to be nervous. If you’re nervous,that just means you care. The alternative is being complacent about your work, and nothaving a sense of urgency about the outcome.

The truth is, if you don’t care, your audience never will.

There’s something else that’s vital to remember when confronting the fears that come with making presentations. Being nervous before a big speech simply means that you’rehuman. If someone like Beyonce—a woman who makes her living onstage—is anxious about her performance, it’s reasonable that the rest of us would be, too.

So the next time you have the chance to present, embrace it. Embrace both the opportunity and the anxiety that comes with it. Use that anxiety as a motivator.

As Beyonce suggests, you should only get nervous when you don’t get nervous. Remember that advice, and you’re likely to be much less nervous the next time you’re in front of your audience.

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One Response to My column in this month’s Business People: “I get nervous when I don’t get nervous”

  1. Laurie says:

    I think you summed it up in one sentence. “The truth is, if you don’t care, your audience never will.” Thanks for the great article Anthony.

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