People who research what frightens people the most have made a pretty amazing discovery. Consistently when people list the top five things they are afraid of in life, they have some pretty intimidating terrors.
You would think that death would rank number one on that list. But death has to settle for number two. Amazingly, the number one thing that terrifies most people is public speaking. A popular comedian once said that this means that people would rather be the guy in the casket at a funeral than the person giving the eulogy.
How to Tell If a Speaker Is Terrified
If you’ve ever been in a meeting listening to a speaker, you can usually tell if they’re terrified. They will get up there and you will see that “deer in the headlights” look.
You know that look. It’s one of extreme fear, panic, and terror so profound that the person is frozen in place unable to speak or move. And if you’ve ever been that guy or gal in front of a group giving the “deer in the headlights” look, you know the feeling of terror can be pretty awful.
So if you know that public speaking is going to be part of your job or something you have to do regularly, you have to find a way to neutralize that fear. You need to be able to relax in front of a crowd when you speak.
Public Speaking- Putting Yourself at Ease
How often have you sat and listened to a speaker who was relaxed, funny, bright, and could field questions with no difficulty at all? It’s easy to admire that kind of public speaker. They seem to have some magical powers that you will never get. But they don’t have magic. Those speakers have just learned some techniques for neutralizing the fear so they can appear relaxed. They seem to be having fun up there. It’s not always an innate talent. It’s a skill which can be learned.
Of course a lot of the ability to look out at the audience and not feel sick comes from experience. But experience teaches you things that you can at least understand before you become an old pro at public speaking. One of those things is that the crowd out there doesn’t know what to expect. If you broke down why you feel terrified in front of people, it’s that you think that they think they know what they want and you’re being judged.
They Don’t Know What’s Coming
Understand what people really expect when they’re looking at you on stage,. Just remember the last time you saw someone speak. You had no predefined idea what was about to be said. You probably had no outline or frame of reference what they were going to say.
That means even if you don’t deliver your speech perfectly, people will never know! As long as you don’t let on that you’re nervous or not sure about your material, they won’t know if you got it wrong. If you forget an entire segment of your speech, as long as what you do say flows nicely, they never know you forgot something. The audience will think your speech was just fine and will probably applaud.
Public Speaking Is Really One-to-One
Also remember that you are not really speaking to a group. The group has no ears. You’re speaking to several individuals. When you’re listening to a speaker, you’re one person listening to another person. That is how each person in the audience is receiving you, as an individual. If you speak to them as though they are one person, not a crowd, your presentation will be warm, personal, and very successful. And the crowd will like you, too, which helps a lot.
Just remember that their expectations of you are fairly low. For the most part, people hearing you speak want you to succeed. So smile at them, use a bit of humor, and use that little insider tip to relax up there. And when you can relax, you can actually have fun at public speaking rather than wishing you were the guy in the casket instead.