You are standing on stage, delivering the opening of your latest speech. A well dressed woman in the front row is staring at you, not in anticipation, but with a furrowed brow, arms crossed, legs crossed … very crossed.
Suddenly, part of your brain starts analyzing “Did I say something wrong? What did I say? Is it what I’m wearing? Is there something in my teeth? Did I offend her?”
Every bit of training tells you to ignore her. Focus on the people who are hungry for your message. Deliver to the willing!
There she is … judging you … and part of your brain can’t leave her alone until you win her over.
Here’s a huge tip. Repeat it to yourself over and over whenever you feel you are being judged:
You can never win over every heart and mind. It’s dysfunctional to think you can. Scowl woman might have had a bad day. she might have had an argument just before the event. her brain might be 500 miles away.
Even if it is something you’ve said, something you are wearing, your hair colour, the sound of your voice, the subject matter itself, there’s nothing you can do about her. You’ve chosen your subject, your words and your presentation very carefully based on your research of that audience. Her reaction is not about you. It’s about something beyond your understanding and beyond your control.
I used to shake, sweat, lose my train of thought and wish to disappear when I had to speak to a group any size. I could have the greatest message, but when all eyes were on me, I was a mess. I was more concerned with what the people in the audience were thinking about me, than about the message. All the logic in the world could not overcome my fear of being weighed, measured and found wanting.
One day, as the MC of an event gave my introduction, I looked around at the faces of the people in the room (their eyes were still on the MC). I loved every single one of them. The message I’d been asked to deliver was a gift for them specifically. I cared more about the audience receiving the right message in a way they could embrace it, than about how I looked, sounded or presented.
I took the stage and …
If there was a scowling woman anywhere in the audience, I didn’t see her. I have no idea what my gestures were, or if my pause was the right amount of time. I didn’t gauge the sound of my voice, its rate or rhythm. I was not second guessing the thoughts of the people in the room. I simply communicated, heart to heart.
It worked. The message connected. It was my best speech yet.
Love your audience. Forget yourself. Hey, it’s never about you anyway.
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