I was talking with a well renowned public speaker recently, Dr John DeMartini, as I was picking his brains on his 40 years of speaking, teaching and mentoring - hes been one of my mentors – and part of the discussion was how you go about facing large audiences, something I’m doing more of as I expand my skills.
He explained to me his view on facing large rooms of people. He articulated the fear many have of speaking in this way: that fear of public speaking is not a fear of speaking (we speak to people every day, several people sometimes at once and never question ourselves) but the fear of the people in the room listening; believing that they may know more, are better and more knowledgeable than us, that they may disagree with something we have to say, that we might embarrass ourselves in front of them, that they might notice our nerves or that they are judging us. Any of the typical outcomes such as freezing up, forgetting our speach, breaking out in a cold sweat, shaking, tripping up as we walk on to the stage (all of which I have momentarily experienced, and I did survive!) are all just secondary to the subconscious telling us that we are infact not good enough and don’t deserve to be up here!
By thinking in this way we are latching on to our own limiting beliefs, our own negative patterns, our own self opinion. We are focusing on the minimising values and not on the maximising ones. And in the same way, when we are stuck in a rut, frozen in our own self imposed limbos, the only way we can break these is to tip the scale back in our favour by pushing against the natural tension that is created by fear, and putting ourselves out there. Most likely you will come to no physical harm, you will get through it, you might stumble here and there, but most people won’t even notice that. And you are growing and learning too. The natural tension is where the most growth and creativity is achieved as long as we don’t let the elastic band snap back and let our fear prevent us from stepping forward.
We are usually our own harshest critic. We are more likely to damn ourselves more harshly than those around us, so what does it matter what others think? Now, Im not saying you should necessarily listen too much to your own harsh internal voice either, but it is there to keep testing us and ensuring we do our best. To keep us balanced and keep our egos in check!
We derive opinion by listening and learning from others, in order to land on an opinion ourselves. How you present your topic and your knowledge is of course key - one assumes you have something worth saying and that people can learn from or inform their lives and actions with.
People naturally judge in order to make decisions and to weigh up against the experiences and ‘resources’ they already have. We can’t stop people judging. When you chose the colour and model of your new car, you are judging which colour you like best, how you think it will look, how it seems to others, is it the right shape, speed, does it look a bit flash or does it meet my expectations of what I think of myself or how I want to present myself? These are all self judgements, yes they are considerations and decisions too, but they are all derived from our core ‘self' judgements.
In the same way, we judge everything and every action around us. Do I approve of this, do I disapprove of that; person, opinion, incident or action?
When you look at other synonyms for judgement you are served up words such as : assessment, evaluate, estimate, decision making, deciding - the word in itself means: the capacity to assess situations or circumstances shrewdly and to draw sound conclusions.
So it is natural that in the course of standing up and putting yourself in front of an audience that by the very nature of what you are doing it is opening itself up for people to make decisions on what they are hearing.
So, his top tips in overcoming and combating this stress caused by the fear, (you know - the one that is jumping on our shoulder and saying “no, no, no don’t do it!”), is to try and make the following mental notes:
You know your subject really well - in fact you are an expert!
Your audience may know or understand a lot of what you are telling them, but focus on the fact there is usually at least one or two points that they might take away.
How you tell the story is key - creating different angles and perceptions is adding value.
They aren’t the ones standing on the stage! You are! (they aren’t brave enough)
You’ll survive! Unless they start throwing tomatoes at you (you really would have to be bad), its unlikely to actually cause any illness or harm if they don’t like or agree with what you are saying.
Be authentic. Don’t say stuff you don’t believe – that’s what the audience sniff out within seconds, and that is a major turn off to any forum.
We simply can’t avoid judgement, its part of life, but we can avoid giving in to the fear gremlin we all have on our shoulders. Lets' get out there!