Have you ever stood before your co-workers, strangers or friends to give a few remarks or a prepared presentation? Your hands were shaking, your heart was almost jumping out of your chest and your only thought was—“Please let this torture end quickly!”
We’ve all been there…Standing before a group, thinking about how uncomfortable we feel. But all you have to do is flip the script and change your focus. When you focus on your audience, instead of yourself, you both will feel better.
Your audience wants to cheer for you—nobody wants you to be boring, uncomfortable or scared. The audience is rooting for you, so just think of your speech as a talk with a group of friends. You can connect with your audience and ease your nerves if you adopt the delivery style of Chris Rock, Kevin Hart and Wanda Sykes.
Stand-up comedians are a good role model for how to warm up an audience, talk conversationally and make eye contact. If a comedian or a speaker doesn’t connect with their audience, they will “bomb”. But there are three quick ways to win over your audience, connect with them and turn them into your cheering squad:
1. COCKTAIL PARTY CONVERSATION – Talk to your audience like you’re talking to friends at a cocktail party. You don’t get nervous when you’re talking to friends or family, so think of your audience as a group of new friends. Make sure you are sharing information with friends, not “preaching” to them.
2. DON’T STARE AT YOUR PAPER – Be comfortable enough with your remarks so you can talk about them, and glance down at your notes (only when necessary). Make eye contact with the entire audience many times. Don’t stare down one or two people in the audience. Look directly at many faces for short periods of time, rotating around the room, from all sides.
3. EASE INTO THE HEAVY STUFF – Don’t be in a hurry to shove your main points down the audience’s throat. Take time to get to know them and connect with them before you rush into your message. Spend a few minutes (5% of your speech time) building a rapport with your audience. For example, ask a question that requires an audience response; share a funny story; or find common ground (talk about universal experiences everyone can relate to, like the weather).
Remember, to win over your audience, make sure you have a conversation with them; maintain good eye contact; and lead with small talk. When you build a rapport with your audience, they’ll have a stronger connection to you and your message.