One of the top fears public speakers have is the fear of being judged by the audience. Those rolled eyes, bored sighs, or scrutinizing looks can feel like too much to take, when public speaking is already nerve-wracking.
Whilst it’s terrifying to think of yourself standing in front of a group of people who are mentally channeling their inner powder haired judge, there are tried and tested ways to overcome the fear of being judged when you speak.
First things first, you’re probable doing something right.
It’s normal and healthy to think about the audience’s perception of you and your material. After all empathy, one of Ginger’s Six Qualities of an Inspiring Speaker teaches us to not worry about ourselves but focus on how to customize our speech for the audience. And as presenters, we will be much more successful if we design our presentations to adapt to our audiences’ needs. It’s all about what THEY need.
But when thinking about the audience turns into obsessing about ourselves, we’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere. Self-obsession actually makes us more nervous and stops us from being able to respond to the needs of the audience.
If you’re overly concerned about how you will be judged when you speak here are some tips to remember…
- Use logic. Ask questions like “What evidence do I have to support the idea that I’m being judged?” If you sit in the seats of your audience, you’ll realise that they’re not really thinking about you all that much. Sure they want value from you, but they’re much more concerned about themselves than they are about you.
- Replace fear filled thoughts of judgment with realistic ones. E.g. you might replace, ‘They’re going to hate me’ with ‘I’ll do my best to serve as many people as possible.’ Not everyone will love you, but that’s ok.
- Simply identifying your fear of being judged will decrease the power it has over you. Always challenge your thoughts to bring this to light.
- When you spot your inner judge, treat yourself with warmth & humour: ‘Oh, it’s you again, complaining that I’m not good enough. Well… I managed before, so I’ll manage this time.’
- Of course you should make sure that you allow yourself enough time to prepare and rehearse for your presentation, but resist the urge to obsessively over-prepare. Set yourself a time frame and then stop and think about something else. My advice is always to rehearse the meaning of the words, rather than every single word. This will help you to avoid judging yourself if something doesn’t come out quite as you’d planned.
- Meet someone in your audience before you speak. That will help you see them as human beings who are supporting you rather than judgemental robots.
- If you can, connect your talk to a subject that you are very familiar with or are passionate about. By addressing familiar subject matter, you are more likely to see the audience as friendly and sincerely interested in what you have to say, rather than concerned with judging you.
If you switch your focus to a message you deeply believe in, it’s no longer important who feels uncomfortable or negative towards you on the way. Once you find something you believe in – something that goes beyond your desire to be loved – you will become bolder and more fearless than you thought possible. Here, your fear of being judged becomes secondary and as you relax, your audience may even turn from ‘enemy’ to supporter.
Ironically, if you focus on sharing an authentic message that you believe in no matter who thinks what about you, you’ll find that your audience members WILL connect with you. If you’re true to yourself you will attract the right people who can benefit for your message.
And at the end of the day, if someone doesn’t like you in the audience, that’s their deal not yours. I’d much rather be a speaker who pleases some of the audience and annoys others, than be ‘so-so’ for everyone.