Getting up in front of a group can be a nerve-racking and terrifying experience. Even getting up in front of a group of friends to speak or perform can make your heart race and your throat close up.
The most common response to this fear of speaking is to avoid speaking. The second most common response is to speak, but to try to hide while we do it.
We try to remove ourselves from the equation and just deliver the material, the ideas, the content. Maybe no one will notice me, or see that I’m nervous, or judge me as not good enough.
We physically shrink back, hunch our shoulders, and keep our eyes down at our notes. Or perhaps we turn towards the slides and read each one of them word for word.
As you might guess, this approach doesn’t work! There’s no way to hide once you’re up there.
Most importantly, this approach doesn’t work because it doesn’t connect you with the people you’re speaking with.
In order to engage a group, you must be there to engage them. That means all of you – your material, your voice, your body, your gestures, and most importantly your humanness.
When we’re hiding, however, we’re trying to cover up our humanness. We don’t want to make any mistakes, we don’t want to show that we don’t know everything, and we don’t want people to see we’re nervous.
We want to be perfect.
After all, when I’m perfect, how could anyone disapprove of me?
The secret to connecting with your audience and feeling truly comfortable while speaking is not to be perfect. It’s to be vulnerable.
Rather than impressing and wowing the audience with your knowledge, you can share who you are with them in a way that forms a connection between you.
People are drawn towards someone who they admire and are impressed by. But they don’t love them.
We admire perfection, but on some level we hate it because we know we aren’t perfect. It can make us feel envious, jealous, or inferior.
But when someone shares their vulnerability with a group, it draws out compassion, support, and connection. As an audience member, we relate to the human struggle and see that this person is just like us in many ways. If we’re impressed by anything, it’s by their courage and willingness to share themselves so openly.
The next time you’re going to give a talk, take a moment to remember your goal isn’t to be perfect.
Instead of striving for perfection, see if you can strive to bring more of yourself into the talk. Tell a relevant story about your struggle with what you’re talking about.
Mention you’re nervous. Most importantly, remind yourself the more of yourself you bring to the talk, the more people can connect with you, and then see what happens.