If you’ve ever been called up to give a speech, either on the spot, or maybe you’ve been given a few weeks preparation time, you know how incredibly terrifying it can be. I’ve had to give a few best man speeches, and although having a few drinks beforehand helps a little bit, it takes more than a few shots of whiskey to kill public speaking anxiety.
One of the reasons people get so nervous when speaking in public is because it’s easy to imagine that you are being “judged” somehow by all those people sitting there watching you. But I had a startling revelation once when I took a public speaking class at a community college.
We had to draw straws to see who spoke first, and I picked the short one. And halfway through my speech, I noticed something interesting. If you’ve ever given a speech maybe you’ve noticed that after you started speaking, you might have calmed down a little bit after you realized nobody was going to throw tomatoes at you.
That’s what happened to me. I was about a minute into my speech, and I started to get a little relaxed, to the point of being able to actually pay attention to the facial expressions of the rest of the class. What I saw was interesting, to say the least. Every single student in the class had a look of utter fear and terror on their faces. They were no doubt petrified about their upcoming turn to speak. That’s when it really hit me. Everybody in the class was so far into their heads that I could have been speaking Portuguese and they likely wouldn’t have noticed.
The following week I decided to try my “experiment” again. Only this time I went about halfway through. I noticed something a little different, but still extremely helpful. The half of the class that had yet to give their speeches were still paralyzed with fear. The other half, who had already gone, had looks of complete peace and relaxation on their faces. For them, the worst was over.
For those still waiting to speak, I could have been speaking Klingon, and they wouldn’t have noticed. To those had already gone, I could have been speaking about the impending destruction of the Earth, and they wouldn’t have been fazed.
So when you get up to give your speech, whatever the situation, people are likely thinking about a million different things that the quality or content of your speech. So long as you don’t vomit on the front row, or start shouting obscenities, you’ll likely be fine. Especially if it is a situation where many other people will also be speaking. Half will be looking to their turn in dread, the other half will be so relaxed the will applaud your speech no matter what you say.
When you take this consideration into mind, you can relax and give the message you intend to give. One thing that really draws people’s positive attention is a relaxed and confident speaker. When people listen to somebody that is relaxed and confident, they are much more likely to see the person as an authority figure and take what they are saying as truth.
And of course, the more you practice, the easier this will get. Which is why I really recommend joining a local Toastmasters group. It will really boost your self-confidence and speaking ability, and you’ll be surprised to notice your new charisma showing up in other parts of your life as well.