Several years ago, my children and I went to the art gallery at our local college. There was a photographic display there entitled, Never Mind That, What About Me? It was a collection of photographs depicting various disasters. Some were natural and some were man-made. In the middle of the chaos, there were one or more models posing in all their finery. Obviously, the point was that in the midst of whatever is going on in the world, we are still absorbed with ourselves. What does this have to do with public speaking? Too many times instead of focusing on the audience we focus on ourselves. If we are not focused on the audience, we don’t connect with them. If we don’t connect with our audience, we are mediocre speakers at best; a bore at the worst and neither party leaves the gathering satisfied.
We know that we must pay attention to our appearance, our presentation and even how our room is set up for our participants, but herein lies the paradox, we must remained focused on our audience, not ourselves. Your audience must feel that you are genuinely focused on them and their wellbeing.
How is this accomplished?
First, you must feel it from within. If you are only concerned with selling your product, your audience will know it. It isn’t something you can fake. You will, like our misdirected model, come across as not being genuine. So, if you know I am talking about you, and you just can’t drum up that empathy, please pick a different method of getting your message out. Public Speaking is just not for you.
Second, you must be able to present in a manner that isn’t focused on your presentation. What I am trying to say is that by the time you are ready to present, it should be second nature. You don’t need to think about what you are doing, it just happens. The only way to accomplish this is with much practice. How many times have we heard actors or singers talk about when they were kids they would get friends or family members together and put on a “show?” Well think about doing something like that. Gather an audience and put on a “show.” Start by practicing in front of friends or family members with whom you are comfortable so you can really “lay your heart out.” Then, move on to people who you don’t know so well. Offer to speak for free anywhere and everywhere you can. Think of it as an apprenticeship of sorts.
Third, invest in some good looking and comfortable clothing. You should be able to dress in something that will make you feel confident. The last thing you want to be thinking about is your hurting feet or your top that wants to slip up or down… again, putting the focus on yourself instead of your audience.
And last, make sure your space and props are prepared. (We will address this in detail at a later date.)
Take the focus off of yourself; place it on your audience. You both will reap the benefits.
Share with confidence,