Controlling Nerves, What do you do if you get too emotional when speaking

What do you do if you get too emotional when speaking?

One of the things that can sometimes happen when speaking, especially when sharing our stories and our journeys is that we can become emotional. Now emotions, passion and feelings are important and help us engage and connect with the audience, but we don’t want to become too emotional and have to leave the stage or be unable to complete our presentation. So I want to share with you 5 tips that you can use if you become too emotional.

1. Know your audience and focus on those strong and friendly faces.

There is nothing worse than sharing an emotional story and focusing on someone in the room who is now crying or sobbing uncontrollably. This will often trigger a greater emotional response in us as the speaker and we may also tip into uncontrolled crying. So look for those strong and supportive faces in the room and focus on them. When I delivered my father’s eulogy I made the mistake of looking at my brothers. They were emotional and sobbing and that triggered the same response in me. So I looked at some of the stronger faces in the audience, not family, but those people who respected my father and wanted to show their support. I was immediately able to re-gather my composure and move on. Now it is normal to cry at funerals, but you can use this technique if you ever get emotional when presenting a keynote or a seminar and you need to stay in control.

2. Pause and deep breathe.

If you notice that emotions are welling up, one technique that works is to stop, pause, and do some deep breathing before moving on. This is not only a “time out”, but a chance to breathe, relax, re-oxygenate the brain and just gather your composure. We see athletes before competing, stop and take deep breaths. It also works for controlling emotions.

3. Change your position on the stage.

This technique requires that as you notice your emotions building, stop speaking and physically move to another position in the stage. This is a kind of separation or decontamination from the emotional state and gives you time to gather your composure and start over again, with a clean slate. So if you are standing in the centre of the room, pause and move to one side and then carry on with what you were saying with a fresh perspective and a fresh position on the stage.

4. Focus on the core purpose of your presentation.

When you notice that emotions are increasing or getting a little out of control, take a moment to focus on your core purpose. Your core purpose will be about the audience and it will be for the audience. Your core purpose is not for you. So if you get too emotional or lose control, this will negatively impact on your ability to get your core message across. So as those emotions get stronger than you want, go back to basics, go back to very reason and the very purpose that you are presenting, which will always be for your audience.

5. Prepare, prepare, prepare.

This tip is knowing your presentation and your stories and the impact that they will have on you. So those parts of your presentation where you might become overly emotional, you already know where they are. It is a bit like driving a car and seeing a sign post for a sharp bend or steep decline. You know that it is coming and you can slow your car down, change gears and proceed with the appropriate caution. In your speech, know when the vulnerable points are coming and prepare and focus on staying in control. You can also change the story, or use a different story, so that you still deliver the same point but you have less emotional risk.

When presenting and speaking, your stories, your passion and your emotions are so important in your connection with the audience and your ability to have impact. Occasionally your emotions will well up too strong and leave you struggling and incapable of finishing your presentation. I hope that one of these 5 strategies will help you.


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