Essentials of Public Speaking
Rather, since the audience has invested their time, and likely money, to hear you talk - since there are probably a hundred other things they could be doing, but have chosen to give you their attention for the next 20 or so minutes - it's very safe to assume that they would want you to deliver a great talk, teach them something they don't know, and hopefully help them have fun in the process.
If you do end up making a mistake of some sort, you'll almost always find that audiences are incredibly forgiving and will often look right over your blooper (even though it seems huge to you, many people won't even notice it).
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Audiences can be mean, cold, aloof, rebellious and even hating and spiteful. But they almost never are... And by never I mean that 99.99% of the times you'll likely find none of the above to be true.
And the only reason I'm leaving a 0.01% breathing room there, is for the odd chance that you're a chauvinistic misogynist who gets invited to talk on gender issues at a radical feminist convention.
The truth, which makes up one of the essentials of public speaking, is simply that the audience does not hate you. The contrary - that they want you to succeed and deliver a great and engaging talk - will nearly always be true.
This is an important truth to get hold of, since it will help you eliminate the illusion that, as a public speaker, you're job is to convince a tough and mean crowd of people, after which you should run off stage before the first rotten oranges hit the podium.
Essentials of Public Speaking: The Audience Does Not Hate You...
It's a good idea to get a realistic picture of the amount of emotional investment that the average audience will have in you. I don't say this to try and project a negative picture, but to help you gain a realistic perspective of your relationship to the people in the seats, and how that can help you be more confident during your presentations.
So let's use this example...
Have you ever been in the crowd when someone close to you walked on stage - someone that you know has invested a lot of time and energy into preparing for this, their big event? If you're a mom or dad at a school play and your daughter has her solo coming up, what are you feeling like? Or imagine having a close friend who has confided in you that her career is very much depending on this upcoming speech. What will you feel like when she walks up to the microphone?
Anxious? Nail-biting? Sending up prayers for support and whispering words of encouragement? Probably yes, and the reason for this is that you've got made an emotional investment in their success.
Now to burst the bubble: This is NOT how the average audience will feel about you. Most of them will have far less emotional investment in your performance since they likely don't know you, or you're one in a long line of speakers they've already heard.
Even when speaking at corporate events or weddings, where most of the crowd will know you and therefore have more investment in your performance, they're still going to want you to succeed! They're NOT waiting for you to make your first mistake so that they can snicker and start heckling you... they're simply there to enjoy your talk, and want you to deliver the goods.
So remember this, one of the essentials of public speaking: The audience wants you to do a good job! Both for their sakes and for yours. They've given you their time and attention and they simply want you to speak up and deliver, in every sense of the word.
No, they don't hate you and aren't secretly hoping you'll make mistakes so they can boo you...
Yes, they do want you to succeed and make the whole experience enjoyable for them and you!