While speaking to large audiences is, in principle, the same as speaking to small ones, there is one great difference – and that how the speaker feels. There are not many of us who spend a lot of time speaking to large audiences, and there is no doubt that when faced with a large number of people sitting looking back at us something happens to reanimate those butterflies.
Now imagine how you would feel when sitting in a coffee shop you notice someone staring at you without looking away. Most people would find that intimidating and would feel apprehensive. And when we feel intimidated our normal response is fear.
Members of your large audience will give you the courtesy of looking at you while you are speaking, and if you are a charismatic speaker, they will probably not look away. In fact if some of your audience do start looking away – you could be in trouble!
The trick to handling a large audience is to convey a sense of involvement; and you can do this by using a technique known as ‘grouping’. One of the hidden facts about public speaking to large audiences is that when you look at one particular person, say half way back on the right, then all the people in the immediate vicinity of the person you are targeting will think that you are looking at and talking to them. Want proof? Next time you are involved in a Question and Answer session just notice how difficult it is for the audience to sort out just who is being asked the question. “Me? Are you asking Me?” is the usual response.
So use the grouping trick to make all the audience feel involved and to break down the feeling of being overwhelmed by numbers. Mentally break the audience into the smaller groups such as centre front, back left, middle right and that feeling is mastered. Look at and talk to the groups rather than the individuals and the feeling of intimidation should easily be overcome.
Do you have a presentation to a large audience coming up soon? Need some help? Contact Trischel at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask about our Personal Communication Coaching Sessions.