Look ’em in the eye.

The best way to reduce your nervousness on the day of your talk is to look the audience in the eye. Preparation is essential and will deliver the majority of speakers to a point on the day of relative confidence; the material is well known and practised. The reality though of stepping into the bright light or onto the floor is that nervousness can return very quickly. Looking into the audience and holding the gaze of individuals is a useful trick to reduce your nervousness.

No audience wants a speaker to fail. This is a very important fact to hold onto. The reality of this is quickly strengthened by actually holding the gaze of individual audience members rather than simply scanning across the room.The response of a person spoken directly to is always encouraging and will help even the most nervous of speakers. Conversely, avoiding eye contact actually increases one’s distress. Look out as you are speaking and as you move across the audience fix on a friendly face and hold their gaze. Now, you are speaking to that person. They will value it and you will be encouraged.

A good speaker can actually make sure that, within reason for the size of an audience, every individual is connected with. This makes a huge difference to your message. Some audience members may find this a little challenging and look away but they will still have valued the interaction. There are two points to bear in mind. Some people have an “odd” listening face, they concentrate and let their expression rest. It may appear that they look bored, angry, disconnected or questioning. Usually holding their gaze will stimulate a change. Don’t be put off. Secondly, be careful of holding the gaze of someone who wasn’t paying as much attention as you might like; this may come across as slightly threatening.

Public speaking makes every speaker nervous. Response from the audience will always be encouraging. Use this for your own benefit by actively engaging in holding eye contact. Your nervousness will be reduced and the audience will value your attention.

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