Most people fear making a mistake more than anything.
And what is a mistake? It’s just a human natural phenomenon. We all make mistakes. I have made every kind of mistake you can possibly imagine on stage. I’ve forgotten where I am and I’ve asked the audience to help me. I have had to pause to get the right word and sometimes I’ve never gotten it and I’ll just say, “I can’t remember the word!”
I have… recently. I was introduced to a group and got a nosebleed during the introduction! But I had to go on and I just put some Kleenex out my nose, gave a wonderful presentation, and just let them know I was dealing with it and they were fine.
Audiences are there to support you. They’re not there to judge so much. They’re on your side. That’s what you’ve got to remember. And they’re human beings just like you are. They don’t hold it against you. If you make a normal mistake, just have fun with it and then move on and the audience will move on with you.
One of the biggest things that most people fear is that that horrible nervous stomach-turning anxiety that comes up before they speak.
And, it doesn’t even matter whether they have prepared, memorized — even got it word for word. Many people still feel that stomach-turning anxiety.
Here’s the secret. I believe if you’re speaking to a group, you’re there because you have something important that you want to teach, motivate, inspire… you want to give the audience something.
If you focus on giving to them something that you know about — or else, you wouldn’t be speaking — if you focus on that: what you can give, as opposed to how you look, or what they’re gonna think about you. If you focus on giving as opposed to being received, then it’s gonna make all the difference in the world.
Just how can I get this important idea, concept, or inspirational thought — how can I get it across? Focus on that.
Focus on giving and you won’t be worried so much about what they think.
One of the great fears of most people when they speak in public is, what do I do if I can’t remember what’s coming next?
Well, you pause. We pause when we speak regularly to our friends, to our neighbors in business. We pause. I just did like I’m doing right now, and you know something.
The world doesn’t end because that’s the way we normally talk, but when we get up in front of a group, you know what happens. We think we have to be perfect. We can’t have a pause wrong. Have a pause like you normally would. Don’t throw in a or so or any of the other words that we just love to fill in that space. They are not necessary. They detract. They become a habit.
So pause, enjoy the pause. Look at the audience when you pause and take your time just as you would in real life.
The fear of speaking to big audiences is just that — a fear — it’s not a reality.
Because the truth is there’s no difference in speaking to 10 or 20 people whose faces you can see and whose reactions you can gauge and speaking to 200 or 500 or a thousand. The difference is primarily with a large audience. You’re going to have so many lights in your face that you’re most likely not going to be able to see their faces. Now, for some people that’s a plus. You’re not going to have to worry about how you’re going over.
Hopefully you’ll hear their response, but the actual truth is your message is the same. Whether it’s a small group or a large group, you want to connect. You want to be real. You want to give them the gift that you have in your presentation, and so for many people speaking in front of a large audience, for you don’t see them is actually easier. And for some of us like me who love the response, I like to see their faces, but either way the gift is the same and it’s yours to give.
Some people are more frightened of speaking to five or 10 people in a small conference room, than they would be the speaking to 200 to 500 people in a giant auditorium.
Well, I happened to be one who loves speaking to small groups because I love the feedback I get by seeing their faces, by connecting with them, looking in and seeing their body language, seeing the smile I always look for the faces were feeding me. Here’s what they look like. They’re going
nodding, smiling, eyes twinkling, connecting. If you see the faces connecting with you, that means you’re doing something right and it really feeds you, so actually a small group can give you so much wonderful feedback. Now, if you see some negative feedback in the small group, it’s going to be right in front of you. Then you can make the same kind of adjustments that you would any other place. If you need to speak louder or you need some interaction, whatever you need to do to change, you’ll be able to tell right away in front of you, but for the most part they’re going to be with you. And I love the fact that in a small group you had that chance to do the magic of speaking, which is to connect and respond and have some fun with the audience. That’s really what it’s all about.
Remember: Speaking is like real life (only more so). And, in real life – I hate to say this – but my mind sometimes goes blank.
Oh yes! I forget names of people I know and love. I forget dates… I forget a number of times… the world does not end.
Often, if I forget a name and I’m in front of a group, I’ll say, “who was it that did blankety-blank?” I’ll ask for the audience to help me. They like that. They like seeing that you’re human!
And if your mind goes blank and the middle of a speech… do not worry about it! Pause – if you give yourself a second or two – it may well come to you. If you still can’t remember, you might just ask the audience: “Now, I was trying to make an important point… what was the last thing I said?” I have done that many a time – and they’ll tell me, and I go, “Oh yeah!”, and I go on and give the next point.
Audiences are on your side. They’re not judging you. There’s not going to be a guillotine at the end and if you do something wrong – they want you to succeed! And if they can help you, and if you can show your humanity, they think, “Wow, that’s great. I mean, Jim forgot something and he just kept going,” and they love that.
So, don’t worry about forgetting things because for the most part you’re not going to. And when you do, there are plenty of ways to get back on track and you’ll be able to find them. If you just give yourself a short, quick pause – or, give yourself a break!
Because of a natural fear of speaking, most people start off their presentations by speaking about twice as fast as they normally would.
And usually, within a minute they are at their normal rate of speed. It’s that first 30 seconds to 60 seconds that you’ve really got to be aware of slowing down and speaking at your normal rate of speed.
So, the last thing you want to tell yourself – other than, “I’m going to have a great time and they’re going to love me,” – is, “I’m not going to speak too fast at the beginning.”
One way to do this is to greet the audience. If you’re going to say “Hello, how are you?” You’ve got to really mean it and you’ve got to pause and let them tell you…!
In other words, “Hello, how are you?” <pause… pause… pause…> Let them respond. “Good. I’m feeling great today, too. We’re going to have fun here today!” See how much, much slower I’m going? And then, I can get into my subject.
Give yourself every reason to start off at a normal rate of speed, and if you do that, you’re not going to have to worry about talking too fast.