Abstract This study investigated the influence of trait social anxiety and a task-preceding anticipation period on cardiovascular reactivity to and recovery from an evaluative speaking task requiring persuasive behavior. Fifty-six normotensive female students characterized as either high or low in trait social anxiety engaged in Preparation and Performance of a speech either in the context of a preceding anticipatory period or a prolonged neutral rest period. Social anxiety exerted a substantial influence on cardiovascular responses during task exposure. High socially anxious individuals overall exhibited lower blood pressure and heart rate reactivity compared to low anxious individuals. For heart rate stressor anticipation strengthened this response tendency particularly during Speech Performance. These cardiovascular effects seem to indicate reduced task engagement of socially anxious individuals in situations exceeding perceived coping ability. The anticipatory period, in general, was found to accelerate cardiovascular recovery for systolic blood pressure and heart rate. This effect was partly mediated by level of anticipatory negative affect.