In her New York Times bestselling book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain shares an interesting theory on nervousness associated with public speaking. She writes:
“In fact, public speaking anxiety may be primal and quintessentially human, not limited to those of us born with a high-reactive nervous system [introverts]. One theory, based on the writings of of the sociobiologist E.O. Wilson, holds that where our ancestors lived on the savannah, being watched intently meant only one thing: a wild animal was stalking us. And when we think we’re about to be eaten, do we stand tall and hold forth confidently? No we run. In other words, hundreds of thousands of years of evolution urge us to get the hell off the stage, where we can mistake the gaze of spectators for the glint in a predator’s eye. Yet the audience expects not only that we’ll stay put, but that we’ll act relaxed and assured. This conflict between biology and protocol is on e reason that speechmaking can be so fraught.”
Hopefully, Cain’s explanation provides some solace if you, like most speakers, experience nervousness when you give presentations. Also, know that with experience, the anxiety will become more manageable, but will never entirely cease because our species has survived based on our instinct to run in similar situations.