- Talking in front of a large group of people, say at a TED Talk, can be quite a nerve-racking experience, even for the most seasoned of speakers.
- There are plenty of tricks you can use to manage your fear of speaking, however — tricks that can be applied to any situation that involves talking in front of a large group of people.
- Curators at TED often reassure their speakers with one simple statement: “Everyone here is on your side.”
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Talking before any audience can be intimidating but giving a TED talk is a pretty high-pressure situation. A vast array of fascinating, engaging, knowledgeable, and talented speakers have walked onto that stage, so it can feel for new speakers as though there’s a lot to live up to.
It’s no wonder it might feel quite nerve-racking stepping up to the TED stage.
There are plenty of tricks you can try to overcome that, however — tricks that can be applied to any situation that involves talking in front of a large group of people. You could, for instance, adopt a power pose.
You simply stand with your legs apart, keep your arms at your sides, and keep your back straight — the pose is, in fact, effective in boosting your testosterone levels.
The reason this is helpful in situations where you might be feeling a little nervous or stressed is that testosterone can make you feel more powerful, more assertive, better able to deal with criticism, and better able to present yourself.
There are other techniques too. A lot of practice on the same speech, regular meditation, and visualization are popular tips for those who aren’t the biggest fans of public speaking and going up on stage.
Ultimately, all these tips won’t make you feel any less afraid of speaking. They may quell your nerves, but your fear won’t entirely disappear — in the end, you need to find a way to manage your fear if you want to appear to be relaxed on stage.
“Everyone here is on your side.”
That’s why there are other special techniques employed at TED, according to Quartz. The curators of the conference often reassure their speakers with one simple sentence: “Everyone here is on your side.”
It’s a pretty nifty technique as it tackles the main cause of speech anxiety and it can be transferred over to any situation. Speech coach Jacqueline Hulleman told Business Insider that speech anxiety is, more than anything, a social fear.
“It’s to do with the risk of being rejected, that people will find something negative about you and that you’ll no longer belong to the group,” she explained.
Presentation coach Ruud Van Den Berg also told Business Insider that, sometimes, speakers fear people will find out that they’re not competent enough.
“Maybe you think people will discover you’re not good enough, that you don’t know everything about a subject, and that they’ll see right through you,” he explained.
So those are exactly the fears that TED is trying to address. You can easily use that technique yourself, by applying some logic.
If you go somewhere as a speaker, often there will be members among the audience who will have gone to a lot of trouble to see you speak.
Maybe they’ve had to travel a long way, or they’ve bought an expensive ticket, or at least, they’ll be looking to spend some of their time on you.
Basically, you want to make sure you have something of interest to say and to be a great speaker — and your audience members want that just as much as you do. Essentially, you should be thinking of your audience as your supporters.
Find a friendly face
Are you still finding the whole experience a bit too nerve-racking?
TED curator Chris Anderson told Quartz that it can be helpful to hone in on a few friendly faces among the audience.
“If you can find three or four in different parts of the audience,” he said, “give the talk to them, moving your gaze from one to the next in turn. Everyone in the audience will see you connecting and the encouragement you get from those faces will bring you calm and confidence.”
Even if you make a mistake, you stammer, or if being nervous stops you from getting your words out, it doesn’t matter according to Anderson.
“Audiences embrace speakers who are nervous, especially if the speaker can find a way to acknowledge it,” he went on. “If you flub or stutter a little in your opening remarks, it’s fine to say, ‘Oops, sorry, a little nervous here’.”
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