Whether you suffer from glossophobia or embrace every opportunity to show off in front of as many people as possible, there is something about public speaking that resonates in the most primal part of the psyche. Ideally, addressing an audience would be something we could all do well, as and when required, without our either fearing or craving the attention.
If the prospect of public speaking frightens you, learning to connect with the audience will, actually, help you to relax. Once you can get past seeing them as a faceless mass of scariness and recognise them for the people they are, talking to them will cease to be such a big deal.
For nervous speakers, the danger is that you recite your content into the space, at top speed and without looking anyone in the eye. At best, the audience will be exhausted by the effort of concentrating to hear and keep up with you. At worst, they will be bored, frustrated and restive. Stay grounded, slow down, make eye contact, connect with your audience and instantly your ordeal is transformed into a worthwhile, even stimulating, experience.
I called my public-speaking coaching ebook Loving the Limelight in order to remind nervous speakers that it is possible to learn to enjoy talking to a crowd. Although the techniques work for everybody, I wrote the book mainly for people who fear public speaking, since they tend to be the ones who seek help with it – but how I wish many confident speakers would take a moment to reflect on what motivates them to speak in public. If you love the limelight, that’s great but do remember that every performance must be in the service of the audience, not your ego.
Whichever end of the spectrum you’re coming from, connecting with the audience is the key to your success. The connection allows communication to flow both ways, so that the people in front of you hear and retain what you’re telling them and you pick up on the feedback they’re sending you.
If the feedback is not what you wished for, do not be tempted to ignore or discount it. The situation will not improve by itself and may deteriorate further. If your detailed commentary is eliciting yawns, try a different tack such as turning your monologue into a discussion; if your jokes are falling flat, miss the rest of them out. Take action in response to the audience’s signals and you can avert a potential train wreck and go on to deliver the informative/entertaining/persuasive journey you promised them.