Why it is so hard to be confident when presenting – and what to do about it


Some of my clients need help to overcome their fear of public speaking.  These clients complain that they find themselves physically shaking before they present.  Some even throw up or freeze in the middle of their presentation.  If you’ve felt like this, you are not alone.  As Jerry Seinfeld said, for the average person, “if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy”.  Public speaking is the #1 fear for many people.  Death is #2.  Indeed, when I did my first presentation, I was terrified.

I help many of my clients overcome their fear of public speaking and get to the right level of nervous energy.

Giving a presentation is something that looks like it should be easy, but actually isn’t.  When watching a good presenter, it just flows.  It’s simple to follow. It makes sense. It seems they did it easily, no effort involved.

I suspect that a good part of the frustration stems from this perception: “this should be easy…why is it so hard?”

Want to know why?

Let me tell you!

Here are 3 things that make presenting with confidence challenge.

  1. Presenting is a skill – and you may not have learned it yet

Think of the first time you tried to cook something.  Did it go perfectly?  If you’re like me, it was a disaster.  Think of the first time you tried to cook something. Did it go perfectly? If you’re like me, it was a disaster. Being a good cook takes learning what to do, initially following a recipe, and practice. To be a really great chef, takes extensive training and years of practice.

We all know how to “speak” – but presenting to a group of people is a specific skill.

Like cooking…doing a great presentation is learnable. And it requires some practice and experience.

The lack of skill part is easy to rectify. You just need to learn a few tools to get to the right level of nervous excitement.  Saying a mantra, doing a butterfly hug, or deep breathing can all help.

The second challenge may be difficult.

  1. Doing a great presentation takes work

Very few people can spend no time preparing and give a memorable and engaging presentation.  Those people who try to wing a presentation often end up going off on tangents, losing sight of their purpose, and frequently going over the allotted time.  For most people, a memorable and engaging presentation that is delivered with confidence takes work.

Not being prepared for a presentation will make you more nervous.

You first need to determine what your audience needs to know and what the purpose of your presentation is.  What do you want them to think, feel, or do after your presentation?

You then need to organize your content in a way that will be engaging and memorable.  If you are using slides, you need to create slides that enhance your presentation not distract from it.

Finally, you need to practice your presentation until it is inside you.  This does not mean memorizing your presentation.  When you practice, say it differently each time, perhaps even trying out different voices.  The more different ways you say it in practice, the more that you will feel comfortable with your content.

You may be thinking that you don’t have time to do all of that.  You have your “real” job to do.  But, did you know, that Ethos 3 reported that fear of public speaking reduces wages by 10% and inhibits promotion to management by 15%. You can check out these and other shocking public speaking stats here: https://ethos3.com/2018/03/5-shocking-public-speaking-statistics/.

The final challenge is hardest to resolve.

  1. Putting yourself out there can be nerve wracking

Many people don’t want to stand out and be the centre of attention.  They may be worried about looking foolish and may ask themselves “what will the audience think of me”.

As the presenter, you do have to stand out.  It helps to remember that the audience is there because they want and need the information you are there to share.  They want you to succeed, keep them engaged, and provide information they will remember afterwards.  If you keep your focus on your audience and the purpose for your presentation, it will take your mind off you and, with practice, you will be confident that you are there for a reason and that you have important information to share.

The Big Takeway

When you

  • have learned tools that you can use to manage your nerves
  • know that you have prepared and practiced your presentation and that it will be great
  • focus on your audience and know they want you to do well

you will find that you have the right level of nervous energy and have overcome  fear and debilitating nerves relating to public speaking.

As my client, Victoria Cubbon, said, “Brenda’s well thought out strategy [helping create a structure for my talk and come up with relatable stories to share] gave me the confidence I needed to make my talk as effective, entertaining and memorable as possible”.

To get really confident, you will likely need to gain experience in public speaking. Toastmasters is a great organization to help you practice public speaking.

Would you like some help being more confident when presenting?

Check out my Presentation Training and Coaching Services for Individuals here


Figure out how memorable your presentations already are

Join me at a free 45-minute AMP Up Session, which includes a facilitated self-Assessment of the Memorability of your Presentations. Book one here: