One of the pieces of advice I always gave people, back in those days, whenever they were having stage fright was to look over their audience’s heads. This was when they had to speak to a large audience or a small yet intimidating one.
I’d say: If you can’t look them in the eye, just focus on something behind them/ over their heads and keep looking there. It’ll help calm your nerves. They won’t really notice but instead, think you are looking at the person behind them because there’s a large crowd.
ALMOST always they come back with positive feedback of how they weren’t so nervous after all. At that time, I was happy that I was able to have been of assistance.
However, as I progressed in my career of speaking in public for a variety of causes, I found out that my “help” was unknowingly a major stumbling block to an even greater level of success. I discovered an alternative which, if it had been my advice, would have produced more effective results than those attained – despite their ability to speak without nervousness.
One such friend wanted to introduce her product to the market of students. She wanted to sell handmade wristbands of really bright colors and beautiful designs. She had requested for and acquired an audience for her product’s launching. She was going to give a speech and gave me a call two days prior to it.
Over the line, I could hear and sense her nervousness. She was afraid that she’d get on stage and be unable to speak or forget what she had to say. That would be very deadly because she was trying to introduce a product into an already booming market of the wristband business.
What she needed to do was show them why hers was the better option and worth their money. The last thing she needed was to look like someone who didn’t know what she was doing.
I went on to question her as to what exactly was the cause of her nervousness. Her answer was the whole idea of speaking to that amount of people (about thirty). There and then I gave her my legendary “advice”. After our talk, she invited me to come watch if I could. As I was free, I was able to make it.
The speech was lovely and she did seem a lot relaxed. At the end of it, she was able to sell 12 bands, one of the buyers being me, that day (I believe each cost $2). At the time, it wasn’t a bad start. But when I uncovered the secrets of this alternative, a thought of how much more she could have sold if I had known then and informed her crossed my mind.
Effects of That Eye Contact Tip
The advice above is very popular globally. It’s normally what friends give to each other and SOME experts make the error of giving. However, it’s not really the best idea. One can easily tell if you are looking at them or paying attention to them. Either by your movements or the positioning of your eyes or even by the reflection in your eyes.
The effect of looking over their shoulders/ heads is that your audience feels as though you are not referring to them. It makes you seem distracted. This is not a good effect especially if the aim of your talk is to persuade or convince. They feel as though it isn’t them that you are aiming to convince.
Another effect would be your audience would gradually lose focus and be distracted. Why? Everyone’s wondering what exactly behind them has caught your attention so much. Hence, they try to find out.
So, you’ve identified, analyzed and researched about your audience. Your presentation was spectacular but in the end, you get very little results. Because all this while, a majority of your audience were still waiting for their part of the presentation (they felt as though the talk wasn’t directed at them).
When we continue on this series, we will find out what the better alternative is.
This is Perception.
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