There’s an interesting ‘Career Couch’ column in the March 30th New York Times. Phyllis Korkki interviews
several ‘coaching’ experts and academics about the fear of public speaking.
The advice was what one would expect and completely appropriate for the novice or veteran speaker. The Korkki column did overlook what, for me, has long been the single best public speaking strategy: involving the audience. Whether it’s a PRSA keynote address, a lecture before college students or sitting on an ‘experts’ panel in front of advertising, digital or marketing experts, I’ve always used audience interaction to accomplish two goals: ease my fear and, well, involve the listeners.
I always try to ask questions of the audience before my speech in order to determine their pain/issues. Then, at the appropriate point in my remarks, I’ll review my ‘research,’ ask if it’s accurate and invite audience members to elaborate (this works beautifully in front of small groups and overflowing auditorium alike). While the audience, speaks, I listen and adapt my upcoming comments. I also slow down my breathing and collect my thoughts. And, it works like a charm.
So, the next time you’re stressing over a speech, ask the audience to help you out. Trust me, they’ll love it and you’ll breath an extra sigh of relief.
I attempt to involve the audience, if nothing else, through a smile and conversational voice. I also attempt to mingle with the audience before my presentations and I have spoken about involving the audience by referring to something said while mingling with the audience, but I applaud your approach. It really sets the stage for interaction.