I stood backstage, staring at the brightly lit stage. The excited chatter of the 400+ audience roared across the hall. Strangely, the butterflies in my stomach felt less excited and more nerve-wrecking, to be honest.
As the organizing chair of the conference passed by, he saw me caught up in my moment. “Sangbreeta, are you nervous?! Don’t worry, you’re such an extrovert. You’re going to be fine!”
At this point, you’d expect me to breathe a sigh of relief as I’d remind myself that I have nothing to fear. But that’s what people often get wrong about extroverts. We’ve largely seen, read and heard countless stories on why speaking in front of public is difficult for introverts, and truly, it must be hard to overcome. But that doesn’t mean it is any easier for extroverts either. It is also often assumed that extroverts don’t require preparation, or fret on stage. Some may even think of extroverts as wild horses- unwilling to be tamed for the stage. But here’s the secret- extroverts are just as uncomfortable and nervous of speaking in front of crowds as introverts.
In my experience as a public speaker and trainer, I can vouch that yes, extroverts find it easier to strike conversations with strangers. But speaking on stage is not a conversation. It’s a monologue, whilst staring at a room full of quiet, watchful eyes. And when the initial nerves, panic, whatchamacallit strikes, you don’t care whether you’re comfortable speaking to people or not. Suddenly, it’s no longer about who you are. At that moment on stage, it’s about The Fear Of Judgement, as we stand alone on stage. “What if I forget my speech?” “What if my speech is not good enough?” “What if my audience is not interested?” In my opinion, this is the real issue. And it strikes at will, your social ease doesn’t factor in any longer.
Then follows the million dollar question. How do we overcome this fear?
I can give you two basic and easy suggestions.
- Know thy story, not thy script: We often rehearse our lines for the perfect speech; we have each word, each expression down to a pat. But a speech is not a performance. We’re not in a Broadway show, instead we’re trying to draw our audience into our line of thought, our belief system. Think of a personal story you told your friend or colleague. Did you suddenly forget it midway and freeze? No. Why? Because we never forget our stories, do we? Once you think of your speech as a story to share with your audience, than a script; you transform your presentation on stage.
- Your audience is your friend: Most of us go on stage knowing everything we want to say. But how many of us know our relationship with our audience? Is your audience a wall of eyes staring back at you? If so, reciting a speech at a wall is not going to have much of an effect, if anything you’ll feel the blood rise in your cheeks as your palms get sweaty. But if you build a relationship with your audience, think of them as a friend whom you’re sharing a story with, immediately the air is replaced by a warm genuine connection.
So, my dear readers, this battle of winning the art of public speaking is not really about extroverts and introverts, let’s leave that myth behind once and for all. What the battle really is about is how we translate our nerves and discomfort into a memorable speech. Knowing your story, and building a relationship with your audience are two basic and easy ways to overcome this fear, and make us convincing, relatable and influential on stage.