As a regular public speaker and comedian, and the host of events such The Next Web, Accenture Innovation Awards and the Nordic Business Forum, Pep Rosenfeld is no stranger to the stage. Here he explains how to turn public speaking from an ordeal into a pleasure. This post was adapted by Pep’s original post here.
Summer is winding up which means back to the real world of business. For many of us, this means speaking to groups, giving presentations, making sales, and other forms of (gulp!) public speaking. And sorry; I know that just reading the words, “public” and “speaking” are enough to make many people order another stiff drink at the beach bar.
Why? Why are people so afraid of talking in front of people? While there are a bunch of theories, my favorite is one I heard a few years ago, ie that the phobia’s origin is evolutionary.
Being on stage conjures up old memories buried deep in the primitive brain, memories of our fight-or-flight days as undeveloped, not-quite-humans. Back then, seeing that many eyes staring at you meant you were about to be dinner. This is why so many speakers over-rely on their PowerPoint. That's their way of saying, “Don't eat me; eat THAT!”
I prefer to look at it from the point of view of your audience. The set-up of a talk, pitch or story also conjures up a primitive memory for them. This is the memory of smaller pack animals like hyenas. The memory tells them they can beat a smaller animal, like an antelope. But if they come up against something like a lion, they know they're outgunned.
So now they have to decide: are you the lion, and they should respect you? Or are you the antelope, and they should eat you? Your job is simple: be the lion, not the antelope.