But They're All Staring at Me!
by Barbara Rocha
You tell me not to be nervous, but there they all are looking right at me!"
That perspective only brings pain: turning panic into poise requires an attitude adjustment.
Good public speaking is 7 parts attitude and 3 parts technique. Here are a few attitude pointers that can make speaking fun.
Appreciate the opportunity to speak.
Attitude starts the moment someone asks you (tells you) to speak. "I'll be glad to" will take you much farther towards your goal of painless speaking than a groan and grimace.
It's never about you.
It's always about helping the audience. The quicker you realize the audience doesn't care about you (not in the way we think they do) that they're only interested in what you can do for them, the quicker you'll feel poised and in control.
Focus on the benefit to your audience.
Immediately identify how this topic will help this audience. Why do they need to hear it? Even if you've been asked to speak so they can judge your speaking ability, find a reason the audience needs the information. It's never about you.
Organize w/ audience in mind.
If it's not about you, then it's not about telling the audience everything you know or about impressing them. Find out what they need to know to satisfy their situation and make their lives better and organize around that. You'll feel like you're having a conversation and offering value to their lives and not like they're focused on you.
Recognize audience focus
Just like you, when your audience arrives they've got other things on their minds. And when they do get around to thinking about your presentation, it's more along the lines of "I wonder if I'll be bored." "I wonder if I'll get anything out of this that I can use." And even if they notice you're having a bad hair day, they don't really care. They're just glad it's not them.
Take your time getting started
Give yourself time to breathe and focus. Remind yourself they're not staring at you. They're looking in your direction from habit, while focusing on themselves and their needs.
It ain't over til it's over
Two sentences before the end it's easy to think, "I'm almost through." Resist that temptation. You're not finished until you're in the car on the way home. Any deviation from that will start you thinking it's about you, and wondering how to get out of there. To stay poised and feeling in control, stay focused on what you're there for, what you want them to do, and how they'll benefit from it.