To Beat Stage Fright, Schmooze with the Audience

It’s fifteen minutes before your presentation and you’re a little nervous.  You’ve checked the projector and it’s working just fine.  Your handouts are in order.  The microphone has been tested and your voice comes across strong and clear.  You even have a water glass ready in case you get a little parched during your presentation.

What do you do now?  We recommend going out into the audience and chatting with your listeners.  It’s a great way to deal with pre-speech jitters because it helps turn the audience from strangers into friends.

Pre-speech schmoozing also gives the speaker greater insight into the audience’s interests.  If an audience member asks about something related to your speech, you can be sure to address that issue during your remarks.  And if one person is interested in a particular topic, chances are that others are also interested.

Recently I was about to give a speech to a large group and I was a little jittery.  Once everything was set up, I walked out into the audience and began introducing myself. “Hi. I’m going to be your speaker today.”  I tried to meet as many people as possible, having little “cocktail party” conversations.  It helped calm the nerves.

Questions to ask include:

  • “Where are you from?”
  • “Where do you work?”
  • “What in particular interests you about today’s topic?”

Don’t spend more than a minute or two with any one audience member.  Just end the conversation by saying, “Nice meeting you.  I hope you enjoy the presentation.”  And then move on to the next person.  Ideally, you would speak to everyone in the audience before your speech.

Next time you have to give a speech, don’t stand at the lectern waiting to begin. Get out in the audience and schmooze.

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