The 10 Psychological Stages of Public Speaking

I have spoken publicly about a dozen times in the last three weeks. Because this is more than usual, I have begun to notice a pattern in my own psychological state as I go through the speaking cycle.

A Speaker in Front of an Audience - Photo courtesy of ©, Image #180536

Photo courtesy of ©

It has been helpful to identify the components of this cycle, so I am not so surprised when they occur. So far, I have identified ten stages I go through in preparing to speak. (This assumes that I have never delivered this exact speech before.)

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Warning: this post is about my psychological states as I prepare. It may sound self-indulgent. If so, I apologize. I am sharing this in the hope that you won’t feel alone, if you do any public speaking.

Here are my stages:

  1. Enthusiasm. Someone invites me to speak at their event. I have a phone conversation with the event host to better learn what outcome they want to create. I am honored to be part of the event and get excited about the possibilities.
  2. Curiosity. I begin preparing. I usually create a rough outline, using OmniOutliner. I am not looking for too much detail; just the overall flow. I begin reading books, blogs, and other background material. At this point I don’t feel either positive or negative; I just enjoy learning.
  3. Creativity. I begin putting it together the speech. I love this part of it. I rearrange the outline (if necessary) and begin fleshing out the detail. If I am going to use a slideshow, I start assembling the visual components, using Apple Keynote and iStock Photo.
  4. Panic. As the deadline looms, I feel rushed. My anxiety level rises. I begin wondering if I will get it done in time. I estimate how much work I still need to accomplish and quickly conclude that I don’t have that much time. I end up tweaking my presentation right up until the minute I leave for the event.
  5. Despair. As I wait to be introduced, I feel ill-prepared. I go through enormous self-doubt and recrimination. A voice in my head whispers, You should have started preparing sooner. Or, You really don’t have anything to contribute. Or, This isn’t going to connect with this audience. If I could, I would push an ejection button.
  6. Confidence. As I am introduced, I hear another voice in my head: You can do this. Open your heart wide and play full-out. Don’t withhold anything. There’s more at stake here that you know. At that, I feel a renewed sense of confidence and excitement. I am fully present to the moment. I step into it with confidence.
  7. Flow. As I begin to speak, I look the faces in the audience. I begin to connect. I realize that there is indeed something at stake. I begin to believe that what I have to say is important. I get new ideas, recall stories, and see connections that didn’t occur to me in my preparation. This is where the real creation—the art, if you will—happens.
  8. Satisfaction. As I sit down, I feel satisfied. Regardless of the outcome, I have given it my all. I am pleased with what I was able to share. I feel gratitude for what just took place and a little silly for (once again) doubting the creative process. Oh, how I would love to eliminate stages 4 and 5!
  9. Depletion. My mood is usually elevated initially after I speak. But I always try to make myself available after my session to interact with the audience. I think this is important, but, as an introvert, it quickly depletes me. I find it difficult to focus on the person speaking to me. I begin feeling a little claustrophobic and am eager to get to “the alone zone.”
  10. Perspective. I always try to improve, so it is natural to begin critiquing my speech. However, I have found that I cannot be objective until I have recharged my spiritual and emotional batteries. It is much healthier if I push the “pause” button and wait for a while. Usually, I do best if I get a good night’s sleep first.

I don’t know if these stages are typical for most speakers or unique to my own personality and temperament. The main thing I have learned is this: when I begin to feel panic or despair, that’s normal. At least for me. And it has nothing whatsoever to do with how I will ultimately perform.

Questions: What about you? If you are a public speaker, do you go through similar stages?
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  • Joseph

    Thank you for sharing this. It is a surprise to know even a professional speaker like you go through panic & despair stage.

    BTW, may I request you to share – whenever time permits – how you prepare (like how do you collect, clip, research etc)?

    Thank you,

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  • Lance M.

    Thanks for the insight Michael. I go through some of the same stages when public speaking. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

  • Gary

    As a fellow introvert, I too go through these same pre-post phases. People often tell me I’m “a natural” and look entirely comfortable on stage. In fact I am, and could spend more time there.
    For me, I experience these phases with something like #’s 3 and 5 reversed. I feel more despair as the date approaches, even though I may be prepared, and then experience a wave of creativity while waiting to be introduced. Perhaps it’s the adrenaline, but I get some of my best ideas, and set the “tone” for my whole talk, in the few minutes before I go on.
    Thanks for sharing these.

  • Daniel Decker

    I don't do much public speaking myself but I do work with a lot of speakers and they seem to encounter a very similar flow. In my opinion, 4 & 5 seem to be a good things to help keep a healthy sense of humility. I'm sure it varies for each person but it appears those moments of despair and panic also create primary points where speakers (who are believers) turn to God for His guidance and support. They are the moments that help us turn to a power bigger than our own. Sure, speakers may include God in the process all along but in those specific moments of doubt, He can give peace and work wonders. : )

    Side note… I do speak weekly myself on a large stage while teaching 300 or so 2nd – 5th graders at my church. I went through the cycle above a lot in the early days but now it's like my second home. Repetition makes it much easier but I still get nervous each week about the content, making sure that I am delivering God's word in a way that makes sense to these kids.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I agree on the humility part. In fact, it is at this time that I begin to pray in earnest, recognizing that it doesn’t all depend on me. It’s an important reminder, and I hope I never lose that perspective!

    • John Richardson

      Boy this is so true, Daniel. They say there are no atheists in foxholes, but I think that may apply to public speaking too!

      • Daniel Decker

        Haha. very true John! Love it.

  • Karen Robbins

    Wow. You have just laid out the path to every speaking engagement I've had. And yes, the self-doubt is a big one. Since I share such personal stories, there are often times I argue with God, wondering if I really need to tell again. He usually puts a finger in my back and pushes me forward and afterward, as other mothers approach me with similar problems and gratefulness to know they are not alone, I understand. Thanks for letting us know we're not alone as speakers.

  • Blair Shelton

    Great post! I never really thought much about it, but I do go through stages while preparing to give speeches. I did quite a bit of improv speaking in high school, and so I tend to drift towards giving speeches on a moment's notice; this greatly reduces the time I have to fret over how it will go.

    Also, being an extrovert, I notice renewed vigor after a speech goes well (as opposed to your 9). If it goes really well (which is tough in my own mind), then I am invigorated to go and do it again. However, if it goes less than perfect, I tend to run it through my mind over and over to work out the errors.

    Thanks for the post; it's another great one to share

    • Michael Hyatt

      I thought about this when I was writing the post: the extrovert-introvert distinction probably leads to slightly different paths. Interestingly, almost every public speaker I have ever met is an introvert. You’d think, because they are public speakers, they would be extroverts, but not so much. This accounts for the fact that most of us are very shy in real life. ;-)

      • Daniel Decker

        I've found this very same thing! Most public speakers being introverts. It is pretty ironic. Also seems that many speakers give so much intro their talk that they're just exhausted after they've taken the stage. Mentally exhausted. I'm sure that contributes to the introvert side.

        Another thing I've noticed in 10 years working with public speakers is that many really good speakers (on a big stage) almost have a case of A.D.D. which I think aids them in the ability to think quick, sidebar and interact in a way that might throw more structured speakers off. I think of Patrick Lencioni who plays off of the A.D.D. like tendencies a lot from stage.

  • Remco Janssen

    I speak in public about twice per month. What can I say, other than I have the exact same emotions at the exact same time! Every now and then, I have a bad feeling afterwards. When reading your ten stages, it occurs to me that in these instances I'm letting myself be distracted if something happens with the technique during stages 5 and 6. I feel rushed an not being able to control the setting. From now on I will go to the bathroom, to freshen up and to (re)gain my confidence. I'm pretty confident it will help.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Good for you. I need those quiet moments, too, just to get focused, pray, and remember that the results don’t depend on me.

  • Women Living Well

    Wow! This is a great post! I am speaking in 5 days at the Relevant Blogging Conference

    You just took me through the full range of emotions I go through too!!! I'm at the panic stage lol!!! But it's funny how excited I get and how I enjoy the process of planning what I will say but then moments before I speak I always have this fear that what I planned is ALL wrong! But then it always turns out okay! lol!!!

    Thanks for a very "Relevant" post this morning! Wish me luck!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Good luck with your speech. I am sure you will do terrific.

      It is nice to know that we aren’t alone!

  • Shellie

    I do a lot of public speaking and for the most part, you nailed my experience. I'm not sure the introvert/extrovert aspect is coming into play with the fatigue, however. I'm an extrovert and the process of speaking and interacting always leaves me drained. Thanks for a great post.

  • Eva Ulian

    Hi Michael, after my experience in talking to audiences in India, I enjoyed reading this post. I will expand on such experiences in due course, but for the moment let it suffice that I had, invariably, a most “forgiving” audience. Take care, Eva

  • Darren Poke

    I can certainly relate to this post, with many of your points resonating with me.

    Between satisfaction and depletion I would add relief.

    I do a lot of speaking myself and am looking forward to spending a lot of time in the creativity mode tomorrow.

  • Marcia Francois

    Michael, fantastic post. I absolutely identify although I’m an extrovert so also get on a high from all the people interaction afterwards.

  • human3rror

    this list is brilliant. thanks michael! i have a speaking event this friday and i'm feeling it!

  • Marcia Francois

    P.S. What is your Myers Briggs profile?

  • Paula Harrington

    Thank you for this.I especially appreciate #9. I'm always exhausted, mentally and physically after speaking and need some serious down time.
    I also do a lot of praying throughout the entire process that I say something that will encourage someone else to live a closer life to God and Christ.

    • Michael Hyatt

      It is interesting that after Elijah had his encounter with the prophets of Baal—an incredible time of spiritual triumph—he went into the wilderness and had a pity party! I think he was just experiencing what all of us experience.

  • @RachelleGardner

    Mike, thanks so much for this post! I'm speaking for SIX full hours at a conference this weekend and right now I'm at Stage 4: Panic. Reading through your stages helped me realize that I go through a similar process, and it's comforting to know that the panic won't last forever. Your analysis also helped me to remember that I usually do have this anxiety before presentations and tweak my outlines until the very last minute – but I also feel satisfied when it's over that I did a decent job. Thanks for shining the light on this!

    • @RachelleGardner

      Also, on the introvert/extrovert question – I'm an introvert too. It's strange how so many speakers are introverts! And yes, public speaking completely depletes me, but after my hours of teaching, I will be expected to mingle with writers and take one-on-one meetings with them. All in all, it's more 48 hours without down time. No wonder I feel such a mess after a conference like this!

      • Michael Hyatt

        Rachelle, thanks for your comments. I hope you build in some time after the conference to re-charge. If I don’t do this, I am hosed for a week!

  • anna caprarelli

    absolutely… I'm finishing a presentation for thursday… right now I'm going through stage 4 :) Panic!

  • @TomRHarper

    Right on! I am also an introvert, yet find myself constantly challenged to lead outside of my shell, especially in this area of public speaking. I've found that you can't really lead without speaking to groups.

    Very interesting that most of the speakers you meet are introverts. Maybe it's because most authors are introverts, and then they get invited to speak to talk about their books!

  • John Richardson

    Wow, what a timely and complete list. My speech experiences are very similar. Over the weekend, I was in a level 3 humorous speech contest with Toastmasters. Having given the speech twice before, I felt somewhat prepared, but it had been six weeks since the previous contest. To make matters worse, my wife and I were on vacation over three hours away from the contest location. I drove down the coast, came home, and prepared my props. I ran through the speech once to make sure everything was in it's place but I realized I misplaced my speech notes from the previous contest. I hastily made an outline and left for the event.

    As I got to the location, I filled out the paper work, setup my props offstage and sat nervously in the audience. There would be seven speeches altogether and I would go third. I went over my outline and rehearsed the speech in my mind.

    When it was my turn to speak, I moved in my tray and my mailbox prop. I addressed the audience and started in on the speech. The speech flowed well from the start. But as I looked up into the audience, right dead center in front of me was an older woman that didn't laugh, but instead had a shocked look on her face every time a funny line was said. I tried to look at other people that were laughing along with me, but this ladies expression kept distracting me.

    My speech was about all the free things you can get in the mail from the AARP. I pulled out samples of Metamucil, fiber wafers, and other classic items that many people in the audience could relate to. The speech order went well, but I couldn't get into the flow with the audience. The funnier the line was the more shocked this woman looked. When the speech was over, I sat down and realized three things.
    1. Always save your speech outline/notes. You never know when you'll have to give a similar speech again. This was a crucial error that I made in this contest.
    2. Practice, Practice, Practice. Since I was hurried and didn't have my previous speech outline, I spent a lot of time recreating things instead of practicing and fine tuning.
    3. If possible, check out the audience before hand and find the people that respond well to speakers. This is especially important when doing comedy or humor. In my case I would have moved over two feet so the distracting woman would not be in my central view.
    Overall the contest went well, I didn't place in this one, but I learned some important lessons. I can really relate to your number 4 and 5 above. I think I'm going to put together a notebook for my speech outlines so they don't get misplaced again!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for your transparency, John. Very helpful. It sounds like you had some great learning here.

      I have found that I usually do better if my wife is in the audience. She always is smiling and nodding—such an encouragement. It keeps me on-track.

  • Juan

    Hi Mike, I am not a public speaker but I normally do presentations about my business to my managers, do presentations to my future-customers and also to my sales team. However the same experience goes thru my mind, I could have prepared as much as I could, but still feel that little "what if" idea in my mind.
    I do like all your process, which I will implement on my future presentations.

  • Nina

    I also have 10 steps. They are all termed PANIC!!! Practice teaching taught me that I am not a public speaker! So I got my masters in library science, but that has not excluded me from being required to speak publicly. I can get through a speech with notes and a degree of success, and then I sleep for two hours!

    • Michael Hyatt

      I usually have to sleep to. I expend more energy in a one-hour speech that a full day at the office.

  • dmlonderee

    Goodness – this is exactly the flow of emotions and feelings that I go through. Thanks for making me feel normal.

  • DJordanLane

    I had to laugh while reading this since it conjured up a vivid memory from 30 years ago, the first time that I had to speak to a large group (close to 1000); I was a high school junior. As I waited on the front row for the program to proceed, I'm sure I was stuck at #4 Panic moving into #5 Despair with a finger on the proverbial 911 button (had we had cell phones back then, I surely would've already called the paramedics). When the MC announced my name, I heard it loudly through the speakers in the auditorium and remember standing up to the voice of John Belushi's character from Animal House. It said, "Let's DOOOO IIIIIIITTT!" I actually said those words aloud as I walked towards the dais, moving with a renewed step into #6 Confidence. Somehow it worked. I delivered a spot-on speech and even won the election that made a huge impact on my life.

    • Michael Hyatt

      You bring up a good point. I have a sort of ritual I go through as I am being introduced, including saying to myself Let’s do this! as I stand up. Perfect!

  • Matt D.

    Great list! I do a lot of public speaking and my list looks about the same. However, when I do webinars, you can simply write-off numbers 6, 7, 8 … it is almost impossible to for me to go through these three steps because I am "talking to a computer screen." I rarely get feedback and I never connect with the audience, unless they send me an email a few days later.

  • KristineMac

    I started public speaking about a year ago and I can definitely relate to all of these psychological/emotional states. I think my doubt stage is more extreme nervousness, worrying that I'll forget some crucial point. However, I have found that by praying and releasing everything to the Lord, trusting He'll give me all the words I need to remember and share, I then have the confidence needed to go forward successfully. I have found that after doing so I am able to connect with my audience and speak directly to them. I personally enjoy the feedback I receive as I always have a Q & A when I'm finished.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I agree. It is the prayer in stage 5 that creates the confidence for stage 6. No doubt about it.

  • Bianca Juarez

    I’m in an airport on my way to speak and this post coudn’t have been more timely.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to rush through the panic stage and finish editing my notes ;)

  • Theresa Lode

    Another practical and encouraging post; thank you! I had to chuckle over the introvert comment—I am an extrovert (but one with desperate needs for alone time on a regular basis.) I've done little speaking but plan on doing more in the future. I've always joked that I never met a microphone I didn't like, even as a teenager.

    But yeah. I get stricken with panic and self doubt too. Funny how even in our human differences, we are all so alike! I welcome the panic in a way because it helps remind me of my dependency on Him.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Amen to that.

      I had a feeling that most speakers went through a similar cycle. Good to know that even extroverts experience it!

  • Benjamin Neeley

    As a preacher in a small town, I speak publicly at least three times a week (This past week it was eight). I feel these stages every time. They are often clumped together. Stages 1-4 occur during the week. I experience stages 5-9 all day Sunday (If I've prepared well enough I sit comfortably in flow the whole day). And stage 10 on Monday morning.

    I agree with Daniel that these are healthy. They help me work through my own growth as a speaker and keep me grounded in the power of God's Spirit. Thanks for the post.

  • Tami Heim

    Thanks for sharing Mike. Good stuff. I find myself called to do more and more of this and understanding the flow here is helpful. As always – you add value to learning and leading in life. Bless you.
    Have a GREAT week.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Tami. You are terrific in public. In fact, I would say that much of what I learned about speaking with my heart wide open I learned from you. Thanks for being such a great example!

  • BarbaraBoucher PTPhD

    Not feeling so alone this morning! Thanks, Michael. I have a potential-large-audience presentation coming up in a month. I'm comforted by knowing someone-like-you has such a wide range of emotion about speaking in front of an audience.

  • Chris Shaughness

    You completely nailed every step that I go through as well. Although I would change #5 from Despair to Anxious. It's the anxiety which turns into rocket fuel for me that catapults me into "energized" and "passionate" when I speak. This post is invaluable to any writer who sees themselves doing readings and book signings. Thank you!

    • Michael Hyatt

      I wonder if I over-stated it. Sometimes, it is just anxiety for me, too. I am speaking this afternoon, for example, and I am feeling the anxiety, but am looking forward to it, so it definitely isn’t despair.


  • PatAlexander

    Mike, so interesting that you would post this. I just recently post a similar blog a t I am surprised that you say your are an introvert as I certainly didn't perceive that in our one meeting. Most people think I am an extrovert and sense no fear or nerves when I speak. But it is true. Glad to know that other successful speakers have the same thoughts and feelings. Thanks for sharing.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I have sort of learned to be an extrovert when necessary, but it really is a role, and I am drained afterward. Regardless, it has gotten easier with time. I just have to build in some time to recharge.

      Thanks for your comment!

  • @davidteems

    I particularly like the "Open your heart wide and play full-out" thing. With my new book MAJESTIE, which will be on the store shelves tomorrow (10/19) I have done many radio interviews already and the schedule is getting fatter with more interviews. I love radio, particularly if I have sent the station sample questions ahead of time and have some idea what's coming. But when your interview is only 9 minutes long, preparation is a necessity. You have to say what you've got to say in that small window of time, and with a biography, especially of someone as complex and as fascinating as King James, there are a lot of directions you might take, as well as a lot of rabbit trails. I used to be a think on my feet kind of guy, but I have since learned that nothing beats preparation. Intense, well-rehearsed preparation.

    Your post is very helpful because I go through a similar list myself, and have found that #5-6 can actually be helpful. They're impossible to avoid, so I choose to work with them and allow them to tell me where I need some coaching. They're great teachers. They're brutally honest. And they are somewhat forgiving. They are ultimately looking out for my good. They keep me honest, and hopefully they keep me direct and on course. I need them. They're not the entire picture (thank God) but as a part of the list they are inevitable and provide the balances we need. They do not have to be toxic.

    Again, great list. We are looking at at least 20 live dates next year, so I have become acutely aware of my need to organize that 15 minute window, or that 30 minute one. To have each one crafted to the minute, where I no longer have to burden myself with thought. Thinking is overrated. Memorization, as an actor with a part, is better.

    I used to work with emotionally disturbed children at Georgia Regional in Atlanta. One of the first lessons I learned was that they need their fences. They need to know where the limits are. And oddly, it is within those fences where they find their confidence. Within those fences they are truly free. And only then does true expression come.

    • Michael Hyatt

      David, this is a fantastic comment. It could be a post in its own right. I try to work with #4 and #5 (and #6), too. It really helped me to anticipate them, so I am not so bewildered when they happen.

      Thanks again!

  • Brian Hinkley

    I thought I would like to start speaking in the future. Sounds scary so maybe not. I’m somewhat of an introvert and not having done any speaking before I would probably have to add panic a second time as step one.

    My question would be how these steps might change or be different based on the size of the group?

  • Angela =^)

    Wow! I just spoke at a women's event yesterday and was half laughing, half in awe as I read your stages. All of them completely apply to me… except maybe number 9. I'm an extrovert and really enjoy talking with people afterward. It's after THAT as I'm in the car headed home or sitting at lunch that I start to feel that physical and mental let down. I tend to get very frustrated with stages 4 and 5, thinking if I was prepared enough or *fill in the blank* I wouldn't feel that way. But, I guess I'll walk through those regardless. And I do think for me there is a stage 7.5 immediately after I finish speaking where a thought comes in, "They didn't get it. You missed too many things. You didn't share enough of yourself." But God is always faithful to step in and squelch that voice… oftentimes by using the people in stage 9. =^) Thanks for posting this. (And why am I only just now reading your blog? You have great stuff on here! Mary Graham was right about you. *wink*)

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Angela. you make a great point about the differences between introverts and extroverts.

      Thanks also for your kind words about my blog!

  • Mary

    Wow! I recognize these 10 stages of speaking and go thru each one of these as well. Im glad you were able to identify and share these with us. It is a help to know that I am not the only one.

  • Jim Seybert

    You pretty much nailed it. With slight variations depending on the group or subject matter. I'm at my best speaking in front of large groups because there's a certain "protection" in their numbers. I don't do as well with smaller groups because the smaller group poses the possibility of personal interaction and chit-chat drains me. So. I'm less nervous when it's a big room.

    One thing you didn't mention is the amazing relief I feel when I have successfully navigated the opening few minutes of any speech or workshop. If I can nail the beginning, the rest flows like butter. But if I stumble over my opening or don't connect right away, the rest is painful.

    Mike, do you spend extra time working on the opening few minutes?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Great input, Jim. I agree with you on the importance of starting well. I have a pretty standard introduction ritual that is a little comedic. It relieves my tension—and the audiences. It gets me started on the right foot. Thanks.

      • Jim Seybert

        I'm curious to learn more about your "standard introduction" – Perhaps in a subsequent blog you might share some details.

  • Laurinda

    So much of what is written about public speaking is written from an extroverts point of view. I've learned my lesson from trying to do what extroverts do to prep and relax afterward the speaking engagement. I agree with all 10 of your stages. I would only add lots of prayer. No matter how much I speak, I still go through all of above so I don't fight it anymore (which makes it easier). It's just how we are wired. Extroverts want to party after they speak. I need to go recharge.

    Thanks for this post. I'm going through a lull in speaking engagements and need to ramp up again. My nerves are getting to me.

    • Michael Hyatt

      This whole process forces me to pray. I remind myself of two important truths: “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), yet “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Reminding myself of both things gives me the balance when tackling a new challenge.

  • Steve Akers

    You can thank your lizard brain for stages 4 and 5. :-)

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I should have correlated this with Stephen Pressfield’s description of this in The War of Art. It’s a fantastic book about writing, but it applies equally to speaking.

  • Gary Taylor

    Wonderful recapture of the emotional map. I speak at Rotary and civic groups as well as churches to build my book audience and get more input. This outline fit sermons, too. It will be useful to reveiw this for the next event. I'll print it out.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I like the phrase “emotional map.” That is precisely what it is! Thanks.

  • sbarkley

    Fortunately, I am not in demand as a public speaker. The process for me usually starts with panic and ends with despair. I can never think of what to say. Flashbacks of speech class in high school and other past failures come to mind and I realize that I will probably come across as boring and foolish. I am seriously considering joining Toastmasters because I believe doing something so completely out of my comfort zone would be good for me, and I really would like to develop this ability. I hope to hear one of your presentations someday, if you are ever in my area.

  • Scot Longyear

    Great post Michael. I usually go through a quick stage of regret as I sit down after teaching/preaching.

    "I wish I would have said . . ."
    "I wish I wouldn't have said . . ."
    "I hope I was not misunderstood . . ."

    This demon gets less over time. For me, I trust that when I have asked God to speak truth through me and not misrepresent him in any way, he heard me. For me to regret is like saying to him "Guess you didn't hear my prayers."

  • dheagle93

    Thanks for posting this. My wife has a first time public speaking opportunity next week, and I passed this on to her for encouragement.

    I find it helpful too, and I speak every week.


  • DavePettengill

    I just spoke last night to the youth at our church last night and I couldn't agree with you more. That is a very good description of the way I feel before, during, and after. Thank you for wisdom and transparency I greatly appreciate it.

  • @matthewfridg

    I am not alone! Thank goodness. Michael, thank you for making me feel normal. I don't speak for a living…yet…but when I do speak, I definitely go through a range of emotions and stages very similar to your list. Thanks again.

  • stephanie

    such a great post! i actually just spoke last night to my high school students and since it was such a fresh experience, i was able to really give you a lot of amens to all of those stages. i think the only difference with me is right before my #6 i have a huge sence of anxiety. i feel nervous and i have the "i hope i can connect and have something worthwhile to share" stage. however, once i get the microphone in my hand, i realize i am in my element and love speaking to people.

    thanks for helping me put into words the steps i go through. this was very helpful!

  • @mpacc

    Love this post. I teach Public Speaking at the college level and will use this to walk through the "everyone gets nervous" motif.

    One thing I would add: Much as we don't like stages four and five, they are the ones which ultimately propel the speech. The times where I haven't had that sense of something being at stake are the times where I've fallen flat. I think the whole process is really a psychological battle in which we a) are intended to be humbled by anxiety but b) learn to channel it, rather than be paralyzed by it

    Thanks for the post

    • Michael Hyatt

      I totally agree with that. If you don’t feel the panic and the despair, it should be a clue that you are not invested like you should be in the outcome. Thanks for the reminder.

  • rich melheim

    Mike-whenever I’m about to speak to a large crowd and hype ask “are you nervous?” I say”no…buy THEY should be!’


  • lindseygilstrap

    Awesome post! You hit the nail on the head for me, too, with this list. I find that #9 (Depletion) especially connects for me. I have always kinda felt guilty about the inability to focus afterwards and my strong desire to retreat. Hearing you say these words, "I find it difficult to focus on the person speaking to me. I begin feeling a little claustrophobic and am eager to get to the alone zone," was exactly what I needed to hear. As an introvert, I also kinda feel this way on Sunday mornings after working so hard on a church service and then trying to connect to the visitors at the end. It is so hard for me to focus after pouring into the team to help make the environment happen. I always worry that I may be coming across as inauthentic even though I want to be a good listener and exhibit love to them more than anything, but because of the way the energy engulfs me surrounding the leadership role my energy is totally depleted by the end. This is a difficult tension to manage.

    • Michael Hyatt

      It really is. I experienced it again this afternoon after I spoke. I really want to get creative with this and see if I can’t come up with a different alternative.

  • moveintoaction

    Michael, Thank you for sharing this! I just noted many of these same things in the past few weeks while preparing for more than my usual number of engagements. Mine is a much similar flow and pattern as yours, but I always remind myself right before I start speaking that even if I connected with just ONE person and encouraged or helped them, then I did what I was called to do. I also pray and know that I truly draw my strength from God and not from myself, and once I start speaking it is just amazing how it all comes together-the planning, preparing, and even the spontaneous things I couldn't have planned that connect with people ! I am glad to know that I am not alone, so thank you again for your transparency!

    • Michael Hyatt

      You are welcome. Your comment is a great reminder to focus on the ONE and not worry about everyone. Thanks.

  • Kelly Combs

    I completely related to this! I'm glad to hear I'm not alone in the panic & dispair moments! But for me it isn't atisfaction, it's elation. I'm so hyped when I'm done. "I did it! YAY me!" Then comes the satisfaction after the adrenaline rush goes away.

  • ThatGuyKC

    As I try to take advantage of more opportunities to present at work and in hopes of public speaking on occasion #4 & 5 definitely trip me up. #7 is probably the most energizing and exciting.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Cyberquill

    I don't do any public speaking, but I go through pretty much the same ten stages when leaving a comment on a blog. (After a good night's sleep, I'll critique what I just wrote.)

    • Gail

      Lol :) Can't wait for your critique :)

  • Shawn

    As someone who works with some of the most seasoned professional speakers as well as aspiring/emerging speakers, it's refreshing to see you admit the feeling of #5 (despair) — we all have that yucky self-doubting inner voice. Thank goodness #6 follows so you can get in the moment and let things flow. Great post, Michael! Thanks for sharing.

  • Dalene

    I do a lot of public speaking and if I am presenting something new (to me), then I go through all these stages too! Due to the nature of my job I find myself giving the same presentations over and over. The panic & despair stages are gone (whew!) but so are the enthusiasm, curiosity, and creativity stages. I find myself looking for ways to make changes, other than just little updates, to use some creativity. As a fellow introvert, I do find my self depleted afterward as well.
    Thanks for putting to words what so many of us feel!

    • Michael Hyatt

      I think that’s an important distinction. I have a slightly different cycle if it is a talk I have given before.

  • @rahulusfbcm

    Wow, this describes what I go through perfectly. I thought I shouldn't be feeling like this! Thanks so much for posting about how we speak. Please send some more wisdom from the conference!

  • Lantz Howard

    I like what you said about the eject button. This is reaffirming to know that I am not the only one that this happens to. I correlate speaking back to my days of playing basketball and getting prepared. They are very similar in nature. As soon as tip off happens I have tons of fun.

    • Michael Hyatt

      That’s a great comparison!

  • Jeffrey Holton

    I am honestly happy that this post is resonating so well with other public speakers.

    I admit that I haven't had nearly enough opportunities to speak in public to large audiences, but I didn't see a lot of this ringing true with my experience.

    I think the ENFP version would read something like this:

    1. Elation. Wow, someone wants me to speak!! Ohmigosh. Wow, they haven't called back to change their minds yet!! Oh, cool!!

    2. Outline: the night before the speech, open up OmniOutliner, get distracted by Google News, and eventually write three words on a napkin. Accidentally leave napkin in jeans that wind up in the laundry.

    3. Speak: Whatever.

    4. Hope the phone rings again to start you over at #1.

    Or maybe introverts are just naturally created for public speaking engagements! :)

  • Kathy Fannon

    It's nice to know the 'professionals' panic and feel inadequate too. Part of my training for school will be learning to do workshops and public speaking scares me! I know, like you, once I actually begin and get into the flow I will do fine. Until then, panic and despair will be my companions! Oof, I feel butterflies just thinking about it!

  • revtrev

    You've done a good job reading my mail when it comes to preparing. I've learned at times to start with the creative, once I'm confident in the topic. I guess you do the same outlining things first. I think depletion comes for us who get our energy on our own. True extroverts might have a different name for it.

  • Larry_Hehn

    This definitely resonates with me. As a fellow introvert, I can especially relate to the desire for the "alone zone" after speaking. I had never really given all the different stages much thought until now, but I think you've identified them well, Michael.

    I have also noticed that between stage 4 and stage 9, my hands are always ice cold, no matter how warm the room is. I've often wondered if anyone else experiences that, but it's not usually something that comes up in conversation!

    • Michael Hyatt

      My hands used to be ice cold. I also used to sweat terribly. But thankfully, with experience, both symptoms have subsided.

  • Gini Dietrich

    I like you more and more with every post you write. I had no idea you’re an introvert, but I totally relate. It sucks it out of you. Completely. Thanks for sharing this. I spoke three times last week and it took me all weekend to recharge. It makes me feel better to know that a phenomenal speaker, like Michael Hyatt, goes through the same emotions.

  • Kerry Dexter

    I do not do a lot of public speaking myself at present, though I have in the past. Tweaking up to the last minute has never worked for me, neither did cramming for exams until the last minute, for example — I find it better to reach a stopping point and let things settle in.

    I work a lot with musicians, and many of my friends are musicians as well. It's interesting to me that there are so many different ways they prepare for and react to performance, some exactly as you describe, others quite differently. For all of them, though, the expereinces you mention in your section on flow are part of things.

  • Davey

    Not "public" speaking, but I do give speeches for classes, etc. School assignment type stuff. I agree with all of your points… That basically sums up the stages one goes through when they prepare…

    *You are an introvert?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, believe it or not, I am an introvert. I get recharged by being alone.

  • David

    This is really helpfully especially I'm going to do first public speaking in November. Every time I imagine of myself in front of people, my anxiety level rises … I already starting to question myself if I can do it or the audience will get me message, or …. This is a lot harder then I thought! Oh great, my anxiety level rises again now …

    • Michael Hyatt

      Congratulations. You are normal!

  • Geoff Webb

    You get an A+ for self-awareness! Can't wait to hear you speak sometime…

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Geoff. Hopefully, our paths will cross.

  • Blane Young

    Thanks for being so transparent!

    I love this:
    Perspective. I always try to improve, so it is natural to begin critiquing my speech. However, I have found that I cannot be objective until I have recharged my spiritual and emotional batteries.

    I have to make sure to apply this as I review myself and others on my team!

  • Michael Hyatt

    I think so, too. I have heard it said that you expend in a 45-minute speech the equivalent of a full day’s work.

  • David Lawrence


    Thanks for posting this! I'm speaking more and more now, and i can feel it as well!!

  • Carlo

    Thanks for sharing, Michael! There's more than enough value here to "justify" turning the focus onto yourself for one post.

    I'm catching up on all my blog subscriptions and just read a Beth Kanter post also on public speaking/presenting. It made for a good one-two combo with your insights. Beth's blog:

  • @HDYDmarketing

    I have literally just finished my own social media semianr for small business and, lo-and-behold, this is the first blog post I read. I went through all of this and then some! Great insight and thanks for sharing :-)

  • @AndreaAresca

    "Do you go through similar stages?" – Definitely, YES!
    I always feel unprepared and all sort of doubts come to my mind! Even if I write a manuscript of my speech (but I speak without it) I still change many things till the last minute.
    But I see that – if you worked hard in preparation – the "flow" of the speech will show how much you did before.
    Usually, I try not to think of my speech just after delivering it. At least 24 hours later, I can "rationally" review it and understand what I did well and where I can improve.
    Another very useful thing I sometimes do is listen or watch myself a couple of months after: it's incredible how this can help improving!

    • Michael Hyatt

      I agree. I do that, too. Video is especially helpful.

  • Michael Hyatt

    I totally agree on the ending. If I can start and end strong, I can make it work.

  • Marc Buxton

    I definitely share a lot of your sentiments. I speak quite regularly, several times a week usually, and being an introvert, I can certainly relate to number 9! I just want to shake a few hands and then hit the car and the hotel….but it doesn't work that way, and it is helpful for people to connect with the speaker afterwards (just think about the reverse situation, when you are in the audience).


  • len hjalmarson

    Michael, its a great summary – one I have come close to writing a couple of times, but perhaps with less clarity. And as a writer transitioning to speaking, I think there are particular challenges I face – which other writers doubtless share!

  • greentub


  • @rodneyeason

    Thank you for posting this Michael. I always replay even "successful" talks and think about what I could have said differently. Or, "if I would have strung together this thought with that piece, it would have made the point stronger."

    One thing that I started doing is having my assistant schedule blocks of time on my calendar without my input. Having these times makes me accountable for spending more time on these talks. Plus, she sees when I should be working on the presentation and periodically asks me how it is going.

    This helps me out a lot and forces me to spend the time on a presentation to make it better.

  • Brian Stewart

    Mike, thank you very much. Excellent post.

    On a related topic: do you (or anyone reading this blog) have a recommendation for a portable projector and screen? I do some speaking overseas (on mission trips) and need to get a projector and screen in the next two weeks that I can take on my trip.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I’m sorry, I don’t.

  • marguerite

    This was very helpful! It helps me to give my speech to others before I deliver. I often make changes according to their suggestions.

  • @barryengelman

    Any post that gives good information and phsyco analizes you at the same time has got to be great…I think.

  • stlukespastor

    Depletion – In addition to personality traits, part of this can be attributed to the input and use of adrenalin that has "fired you up" to speak but is now gone. Many Pastors report that Sunday night/Monday are some of the toughest times for them emotionally. Some speak of how they find that they are more prone to temptation, even after a very wonderful service. Some even feel guilty about it but what they see as a "let down" is actually a much needed pyscho-physical healing process.

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  • April Rowen

    Wonderful post! This one should go down in your 'Post Hall of Fame'. Reading this makes it feel possible to become a speaker (because at this point, I gulp when I think about it). Sans steps 4 and 5, of course =D

  • Jack Hager

    After 32 years of public ministry; I still find it incredible that the Lord would call and equip me. I concur with your points, and find the most difficult time after a week of speaking (though older than dirt, I still speak at 5-7 teen camps each summer)I go into a sort of self imposed shut down…which poses problems when I get home to my wife who wants to hear all about it. I struggle more one-on-one than I do from the “platform.”

  • badmash

    I just signed up to your blogs rss feed. Will you post more on this subject?

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  • David

    Thanks, I find this to be very helpful since I have definitely experienced stages 4 and 5 and have been tempted to give up at that point. I also identified with the desire to get alone afterward but realizing that I needed to interact.

  • Sam M

    wow, really interesting to see my own thoughts in here. thanks for suggesting omnioutliner!

  • Deneen

    Thank you so much for your transparency. I have felt everything that you stated. After my speeches, I still second guess some of the content. However, when someone walks up to me and tells me that a comment that I made really hit home with them. I know that I have hit the mark and that is worth it all!

  • Jeffrey W. Cox

    Thanks as always, Michael, for sharing such deep insight. It is nice to see that I’m not alone in these stages as I’m very similar.

    Related, I really appreciate you recommending The Executive and the Elephant. It looks like the Elephant takes over in steps four and five, then the Executive in six. I’m excited about this book as it describes myself to a tee. I’m a slow reader and not too far into it, but excited to get through it as I think it will be a huge help in situations like this.

  • Shane

    I think it is interesting that, for you, the “art” is during the delivery; not the creation. I am a pretty easily distracted speaker; therefore I try to corral my thoughts as best I can prior to speaking. I find that the art must come earlier during the creative stage. However, I do wrestle with just being natural during the speaking event. Thanks for your insight!

  • cecil

    Hello there,

    Great stuff, thank you so much for sharing it. It’s roughly the same for me and I’m glad to see I’m not the only one in that case.

    I especially like the despair/confidence switch right before the start.

  • Uma Maheswaran S

    As a public speaker, I too go through similar stages as enumerated by you. In fact, fear grips when I think of public speaking. This inertia could be overcome over a period of time and experience. The saying, “practice makes perfection” also holds true for public speaking.

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  • Maureen

    I used to go through those stages but I’ve eliminated a lot of the last minute stress and tweaking by using mind maps to speak from. I’ve done a lot of researching on how the mind works and a lot of it points to the idea that mind mapping works because the brain organizes things naturally in maps. I can use visual cues to remind me of the facts I want to share and it opens up the possibilities of creatively adding content “on the fly”.
    I used to have problems with timing but when I do a dry run of the speech I include cues as to how long each section of my speech should be. I can now time a speech to within 30 seconds of how long it needs to be. Tony Buzan has a great book on mind mapping.
    60 Minutes Toastmasters

  • W. Mark Thompson

    I have gone through some stages of these. Not sure why I thought of this particular talk, but I remember going through one stage that isn’t on the list. I call it “What was THAT?!?!” LOL! However, I can tell you I learn a LOT that day. :)

  • Peter P

     This is similar to what I go through every time I preach.

    I rarely get the satisfaction part though, I jump straight to the internal critique before the depletion sets in.

    I also have the bad habit of asking other people for immediate critiques, especially my wife.

    My next speech isn’t for over a month and although I’m comfortable with the topic, it will be on a new topic and at a conference, which will be knew to me.

    I’m starting to get really nervous even just doing the outline as I think of the number of people who will be there and the different skill/experience levels they have.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I know it helps me when I can shift my thinking from me (how I will appear) to them (what they need). Just a thought.

      • Peter P

        Mmm, good thought!

        There are a lot of factors in play here, but you’re right, if I can put them out of my head and focus on the attendees and what they need, this is going to be a lot less stressful! :-) 

  • James


    You set me free on this post. It was like you were in my head the whole entire time dictating my thoughts. Thanks for sharing