How to Handle Stage Fright by Bill Giovannetti

NCWA blog welcomes Bill Giovannetti!


I speak in public; I am a preacher. Most weekends I speak 4 times to a total audience of a couple thousand people.  Public speaking is the normal person’s greatest fear — so say the statistics. I have stage fright, yet I’ve been doing this for over 30 years. It’s been said that Johnny Carson had stage fright before every show. He kept paper clips on his desk so he could fiddle with them during the program.

For my first two years as a pastor, I was sick to my stomach before I preached (not barfing, but the other end… sorry… ). So while everyone was preparing to start our church services, I was in the bathroom… Ugh.

I have not fully conquered stage fright; but I’m able to manage my fears and get the job done. Here are some hard-won tips:

  1. PREPARE, PREPARE, PREPARE. You can reduce a whole lot of fear through thorough preparation. Know your topic, know your main points. I am a manuscript preacher and like to write out my whole sermon. That doesn’t work for everybody — you have to find what works for you. There is no excuse, however, for a preacher, or any public speaker, who wings it. Lazy prep is our unpardonable sin. Prepare well, especially…
  2. FOCUS ON YOUR OPENING. If you don’t want to write out your whole talk, at least try writing the opening. The hardest part is getting started. Once you’re going, you’ll do great. Spend extra time figuring out your exact opening words and sentences. This may include a thank you to whoever introduced/invited you. It may include a Scripture verse (easy, because it gives you permission to read, thus getting your voice properly modulated). Whatever gets the ball rolling, prepare it well.
  3. USE HUMOR. If it suits your topic, use humor. Make sure your funny story contributes to your overall theme — a random joke will come across as just that. But if you have a funny illustration, story, or opening that is RELEVANT to the group, use it.
  4. ARRIVE EARLY TO NAIL DOWN LOGISTICS. Come long before the crowd arrives. Stand behind the podium. Look across the empty chairs. Figure out how to arrange your notes. Do your sound check. Find the clock. Know your stop time (don’t look at your watch unless you want the whole audience to follow suit). Find out how you will be introduced. Find out where you will stand/sit before you speak. That last thing you want is to have to pick your way around instruments, or to discover you have no podium for your notes, right when you’re beginning to speak. No surprises. Do not come late; do not make yourself feel rushed. Yikes! Getting comfortable with your surroundings well before speech-time relieves a lot of anxiety, thus freeing up mental and emotional harddrive space for your talk.

Click here to read more on Bill’s original post. Re-posted here by kind permission.


Dr. Bill Giovannetti, is the senior pastor of Neighborhood Church in Redding, CA. His third book, Secrets to a Happy Life, hits the shelves Spring 2013 from Bethany House Publishers. Bill serves on the faculty of A.W. Tozer Theological Seminary and Simpson University. He has written numerous articles and devotionals that “engage the mind and touch the heart.” A city-boy by birth, Bill now enjoys life with his wife and two kids amidst the snow-capped peaks and pristine forests of northern California. Click here to visit Bill’s website.


Speaking, When You’re NOT a Speaker

This video interview with Rebecca Stuhlmiller was filmed at the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal Conference in May of 2010.Rebecca talks about why writers need to learn to become speakers and offers advice on learning the craft. Don’t miss this interview with someone who does not come by speaking naturally, but has stepped out in faith to fulfill His calling.

Rebecca Stuhlmiller is a speaker, church leader and World Relief volunteer whose mission, based on Colossians 1:28, is to help people realize their full potential in Jesus Christ. She’s been a member of NCWA since 2009, and is currently in the Certificate of Lay Ministry program at Whitworth University.Visit her website at  


Dennis Brooke writes about Almost True Stories of Life at He’s been a member of NCWA for three years and currently serves as Vice-President and Webmaster. Visit his website at