Do you die a little everytime you have to go onstage to pitch?

Here’s some good news for all startups who are schlepping themselves from one pitch to another: nobody sees how nervous you are, and telling yourself this can actually help you make a better presentation!

In one study in which people gave extemporaneous speeches, participants were asked to rate their own nervousness (Savitsky & Gilovich, 2003). This was then compared with audience ratings.

The results showed that people tended to over-estimate just how nervous they appeared to others. And this is a consistent finding. We think others can read more from our expressions than they really can.

In other studies people have been tested trying to hide the lies they are telling, as well as their disgust at a foul-tasting drink and even their concern at a staged emergency. In every case people think their emotions are more obvious to others than they actually are (Gilovich & Savitsky, 1999).

Sometimes simply knowing this can help. In a follow-up to the public speaking study, some participants were told that they didn’t look as nervous as they felt. These people went on to deliver better speeches as their nerves didn’t get to them so badly.

Read more at The Illusion of Transparency — PsyBlog.

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About the author

Raf Weverbergh

Editor of whiteboard. Raf Weverbergh was a magazine journalist whose work appeared in magazines like Rolling Stone, Playboy, Mail on Sunday, Publico and South China Morning Post. He is the co-founder of FINN, a corporate communications agency where he advises startups and multinationals on their PR and Mustr, the easiest media database for PR professionals. You can contact him on Twitter, Linkedin or Skype (rafweverbergh).