For some of you, the biggest fear in public speaking doesn't really stem from being in front of a live audience, whether on stage or on camera. It is from having certain people in that audience who make you feel very nervous. It could be your peers, it could be your competitors, or it could be some influencers that you really respect. So what do you do in order to not completely freeze and to not let those people in the audience intimidate you?
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And for me, I experienced this a few years ago, when I just started performing in science shows. As some of you know, I own a science company in Houston, Nutty Scientists of Houston, and we're all about inspiring kids to fall in love with science. My instructors are constantly doing science shows and after-school programs and all kinds of science workshops and classes. Well, when we just started, I wanted to do science shows myself because I wanted to get a feel for them. As I was on stage, and I certainly have no trouble being on stage in front of an audience, I realized there was a group of people in that audience who were making me feel extremely uncomfortable. That group was the parents and adults because the whole concept of the science show is to entertain the kids and seeing adults in the audience certainly threw me off. I was trying to be really goofy and funny, like Bill Nye The Science Guy only way cooler, and then all of a sudden I saw the parents and it's hard to be that person when I really wanted to be myself as a grownup when I was talking to parents. I had to deal with that dilemma and ended up with a really good solution.
My solution for you is, if you have people in the audience who make you feel uncomfortable, the best thing to do is completely ignore them. Yes, you completely ignore them by not making any eye contact with them. If you are live on stage, in the very beginning of your presentation you will look at your audience and spot those few people that do make you uncomfortable. That's when you start feeling uncomfortable. From that point on, you will know where they are and you can completely ignore them. You will not make any eye contact with them. You will make an effort to specifically avoid looking at them. You will only focus on the rest of your audience.
It is a little harder to do with camera, right? Because you don't see those people. You know they're out there as you're looking at the camera but you don't see them. So what I recommend you do is to have a mental image of your audience when you are speaking on camera. When you're looking at the camera, you're really speaking to your audience and you need to completely erase the people who are making you uncomfortable from your mind. You're not talking to them. As you're looking at the camera, you are only speaking and focusing on the rest of your audience and you are not thinking, you're completely blocking out, you're completely ignoring those people who make you uncomfortable.
It is a little easier, honestly, when you're on stage because you physically ignore them but please do try this out. It is definitely challenging, I'm not going to lie to you. It is challenging and it does take practice but, as with anything, the more you practice ignoring and creating this wall of separation between you and a few people in the audience who you feel very nervous about, the more you practice separating from them and only focusing on and making eye contact with the rest of your audience, the easier it becomes. At some point, it will become automatic. You see somebody in the audience who you just don't feel good about and you don't want them to be there and you don't worry about it. You build that wall between you and them and you only work with the rest of your audience.
I wish you all the best, take care!
You're just moments away from taking the first step towards becoming a confident, compelling, and captivating speaker!