Avoiding Major Public Speaking Mistakes
‘Mind reading from facial expressions'
When I first began speaking to audiences I was extremely sensitive to the way audience members looked. During the presentation I would try to read their mood.
- Were they frowning?
- Did they have blank expressions?
- Did this mean they were hostile?
If no-one was smiling this would really bother me. If one person appeared more friendly than the rest I would focus on them during my talk, to the exclusion of the others.
On one occasion I was conducting a two day workshop to about forty people. There was a particular woman in the front row who continuously frowned at me and even occasionally shook her head!
I began to try and blank her out of my vision and was relieved that she didn’t ask any questions. At the end of the two days as I was saying my goodbyes and packing to leave she approached me. ‘Here we go' I thought. I was amazed when she told me how much she enjoyed my presentations and that she had loved the training and couldn’t believe how much she had got out of it!
Ever since, I haven’t tried to guess what my audience is thinking. If I suspect someone is not enjoying it, I approach them and give them a chance to say so. I consider that their responsibility.
As I learned how to relax and enjoy public speaking, my perceptions began to change. What I had seen as hostile, I started to see as nervousness in the audience members. Rather than looking at them to put me at my ease I began to try to put them at their ease.
Next, Dealing with a Difficult Audience
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