Posted by: George E Burney | March 5, 2012

Public Speaking is Simply Speaking to Individuals, Nothing More

Here’s a way to reduce the anxiety you may feel about speaking before an audience. Remember this: An audience is composed of individuals. Regardless of how many are in the audience, you as a speaker are speaking to individuals, and not to “a group.” Why does that matter?

Our anxiety grows when we view the audience as a composite group, or as one entity which hears and responds to what we may say. When we see things that way, it’s as if everyone in the audience is thinking alike, and will respond to our speech as a group. Nothing could be farther from the truth!

The reality is that each person in the audience hears you and processes your words independently of all the others. No group thinking is going on.

Why is it good to keep that in mind? Because we aren’t usually overly nervous when we speak to one person. We do that every day with no difficulty…no sweaty palms, and no trouble breathing either.

As proof that people in the audience are not thinking in lockstep fashion, ask yourself: When you are in the audience listening to a speaker, do you confer with everyone else in the audience, to poll them on their response to the speaker? No, you listen and decide for yourself whether you agree or disagree with him, without needing the assistance of anyone else. By the same token, you have no idea what others are thinking.

In fact, afterwards, a friend who sat next to you during the speech may ask, “What did you think of what he said?” You may reply, “I liked it.” Your friend may then say, “Well, I didn’t…” What does that tell us? That each person listens for himself and evaluates our speech on an individual basis.

Therefore, we need not be concerned about the “crowd,” since we’re only speaking to individuals anyway. They all just happen to be sitting in the same room, at the same time. Of course, viewing the audience this way is not likely to eliminate anxiety entirely, but as the expression goes, “every little bit helps.”

Copyright © 2012 by George Burney and betterpublicspeaking


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