Wednesday, January 25, 2017

An Audience in Underwear!

Pretend everyone in front of you is wearing their underwear. That's what the public speaking experts say to help get over nervous jitters when addressing a group.
I've never found this helps me stay on topic because of my over active imagination working overtime to conjure up two hundred sets of different underwear, instead of focusing on my talk. One gal has lacy mauve lingerie but the one next to her prefers her white granny panties with an industrial strength bra...that type of thing.
What helps me when speaking in front of a large group is the knowledge that the people out there WANT me to succeed. Genuinely. They WANT to like me. Having invested an hour of their time in me, they are hoping their choice proves to be worthwhile and are prepared to give me the benefit of the doubt about how engaging I will be. This is fact. I have an extensive background in entertainment and reading audiences. Those faces in front of you might look passive but behind their blank expression is interest, agreement and engagement.
Sometimes, when I'm listening to a speaker, I stop and note that I'm wearing my resting bitch face but inside I'm thinking things like Oh, this is good stuff, Yes!, She's funny, I like that last statement.
Even though I'm not showing my support or interest on the outside, I can be nodding my head and smiling on the inside. I try to change my expression to let the speaker know I'm on board even though my previously frozen expression wasn't highly favorable.

As the speaker, you look out on the sea of faces, often observe a whole lot of nothing, and find it hard to carry on. That's why some people take off their glasses during a speech or try to look to the back of the room or directly at empty chairs. It's daunting to see glazed over eyes and surly expressions. Performers have been known to stop a show and call out someone in the front row who is on their phone, texting, but this is never a good thing. One must assume their inner expression is fascination and happiness and carry on as such. Assume the best.

I recently did a book signing/talk at Barnes & Noble Maui (I know, right!) and one particular woman looked bored to tears. I even sped up my talk to accommodate her expression, several times. But when the talk ended and she lined up to buy several books, I realized that she was a big fan, loved my work, and her expression wasn't indicative of what she was feeling. She wanted her photo with me for her social media pages. I was wrong to assume her passive facial expression was boredom. Don't fall in to this trap. It's rarely correct.
Audiences are completely in your corner, cheering for your success as a public speaker.

Here's some quick tips to help you get through a speech or talk:

1. Assume they like you and will find you interesting/funny/engaging. Use self talk.
2. Make eye contact with as many as you can during your talk
3. Smile when you say something amusing but don't guffaw at your own jokes
4. Feel free to pause to gather your thoughts. You can insert a nod or smile here
5. Stand up straight, speak clearly, don't fidget
6. Show your audience that you feel genuine fondness and appreciation for them
7. Imagine a rock star side of yourself who loves the stage
8. Do not giggle nervously or show you doubt your words
9. Thank your audience for listening
10. Pretend you're a big deal!

Good luck out there to anyone whose favorite pastime is not public speaking. Go Get 'Em!

Kim Hornsby is the Author of Award-Winning The Dream Jumper's Promise available on Amazon Books. She is a Bestselling Supernatural Suspense Author who lives in the Seattle area where she writes during the rainy months.

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