your audience has paid thousands of dollars to be there and is accustomed to hearing from some of the world’s best speakers and most accomplished celebrities. you know you’ll be limited to a very brief time slot, which is never longer than 18 minutes and could be as short as three minutes. but the folks at ted, who have lots of experience coaching nervous speakers, have found a six-word sentence that makes almost every presenter feel better. ” why is this such a powerful way to calm a nervous speakers’ butterflies? speakers often feel like the audience is out to get them, doesn’t want to hear they have to say, and may be hoping that the speech will be a failure. people view their time as precious and limited, so once they’ve invested the time to come to your presentation, they are likely hoping that it will turn out to be a good investment, that they’ll get something useful out of being there, and that they’ll enjoy the experience as well.
the other reason “everyone here is on your side,” is such powerful advice is that it goes to the core of ted’s advice about how to give a successful speech, which is that your speech should be a gift to the audience. your goal should be for your audience to learn something they need to know (as opposed to something you want them to know). if you feel like the audience is your enemy, it will be that much harder for you to focus on giving them what they most need or want. it’s tough to be generous with a group of people you believe are waiting eagerly for you to fail. it’s an incredibly valuable approach because even if you are making a presentation to a hostile or skeptical audience–let’s say you’re making a pitch to investors or customers who aren’t predisposed to invest in your company or product–treating the audience as a friend will benefit you more than getting riled and projecting hostility back at them. if you can’t imagine the entire audience as your pal, try to pick out a few people who are making eye contact and seem to be receptive to what you have to say. if you keep rotating through them as you give your speech, the whole audience will feel like you’re directing your attention to them, at least some of the time.
from push-ups and power poses to meditation or even medication, there’s no shortage of advice aimed at nervous public speakers. after coaching hundreds of speakers over the past 20 years, curators of the elite ted ideas conference have a simple, perspective-shifting mantra that seems to help allay nerves: “everyone here is on your side.” it’s effective because it directly addresses what is commonly at the root of the discomfort for nervous speakers. much of the anxiety about public speaking comes from the basic fear of being harshly judged. stage fright stems from human evolution, according to lisa wentz, a san francisco-based public-speaking trainer who has worked with ted speakers. “when speakers say to me, ‘i hate the feeling of having eyes on me,’ they are reacting to this feeling of exposure steeped in 500,000 years or more of evolution. it’s part of the fight-or-flight response mechanism that we inherited from our ancestors.” in ted talks: the official ted guide to public speaking, monica lewinsky recounts the range of tactics she tried in preparation for a revelatory 2015 talk on shame.
lewinsky, the onetime white house intern who became embroiled in the sex scandal that led to the 1998 impeachment of bill clinton, gained confidence from curators during a run-through. “i planned to bow out after rehearsal but i was shocked at the positive reaction. it isn’t just embarrassing for the speaker, it’s also disappointing for attendees who give their time and attention, both precious commodities. in that context, it makes perfect sense for speakers to envision a supportive audience. “if you can find three or four in different parts of the audience, give the talk to them, moving your gaze from one to the next in turn. if you flub or stutter a little in your opening remarks, it’s fine to say, ‘oops, sorry, a little nervous here,” he advises, extolling the power of vulnerability.
here are the 6 words ted uses to help speakers overcome their fear. they’ll work for your next “early on in the talk, look out for faces that seem sympathetic,” he writes in ted talks. “if you can find ted talk coaches use one simple trick to keep nervous speakers calm during public talks there are plenty of tricks you can use to manage your fear of speaking, however — tricks, ted talk public speaking body language, ted talk stage, ted talk stage, ted talk stage fright, fear of public speaking.
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