This week’s guest post comes courtesy of Catherine Brophy, a storyteller, broadcaster and author. Her new book burning bright is available through Amazon both in kindle and paperback. Here she talks all about different ways of coping with speaking in front of a crowd and gives us all a few pointers
RIDING THE WAVE.
They say that the two greatest fears are:
2. Speaking in public!
Wow. Speaking in public is almost as scary as death!
I LOVE speaking in public. I love standing up telling stories, giving a talk or giving a workshop. I love the moment when all the eyes are looking and I know I have them in the palm of my hand.
It’s to do with a certain kind of power. But hey…not in a Neuremburg rally kind of way! It’s about the power of two-way communication. Not just me telling you and you listening, but about you telling me something back and me listening as well. Here let me explain.
There are three ways to respond to an audience.
They’re all looking at me! What’ll they think of me? They’ll think I’m stupid. I’ll make a fool of myself. I’ll get mixed up. I’ll forget what I want to say.
So you get up, you do all the things you predicted. You stumble, you forget, you make a fool of yourself, you embarrass the audience and afterwards you feel terrible and you swear that you’llnever do it again. Either that or you run away and afterwards feel terrible and wish you had the courage to do it.
Rating: 0 stars!
Create a mental glass wall.
Someone advises you to imagine them all naked. But, when you’re standing up there, that’s difficult. So you take a deep breath and mentally cut yourself off. Then you deliver your words.
This works reasonably well. You get through your speech. You don’t make a fool of yourself. Afterwards you feel relieved and pleased that at least you did it. But the communication is only one way. Because of the invisible wall, you were unaware of the audience response. Ever sit through a talk/ lecture/ performance where you’re stifling the yawns and wishing they’d stop waffling and just hurry up and finish? That’s someone who’s created an invisible wall.
Rating: 2 stars **
Ride the Wave.
Anyone who has ever stood in front of an audience knows that you can feel something from them. Some kind of energy. And that every audience feels different. But every audience has one thing in common, a positive hope. Please be good, they’re hoping, entertain me, inform me, interest me, make me laugh, make me cry, horrify me, thrill me, excite me. Nobody gets themselves ready and leaves the comfort of home in the hope of being bored! This means that:
Every audience is on your side. Yieeeeeeeeeeha!
Every audience is willing you to be fabulous. Yabbadabbadoo! That’s what you feel when you stand up in front of them. A wave of positive hope, of them willing you to be wonderful.
But then there’s the stuff going on in your body. The huge cloud of butterflies fluttering about in your stomach.
Butterflies are the physical expression of adrenalin.
Adrenalin is the chemical that pumps you up to perform.
Butterflies love oxygen. It helps them to fly in formation. Take a couple of deep breaths.
But then there’s stuff going on in your head. Will I remember? Is it okay? Assuming you know your stuff and that you’ve prepared – yes it will be fine. Stand securely, feet shoulder width apart, relax your shoulders. Look at the audience. Yes look straight at them. See all those shining eyes? They love you already. Breathe in that wave of positive energy and ride, baby ride.
Then something magical happens. Suddenly you find that you can improvise, make off the cuff comments, make jokes. And if you stumble over a word, forget something or make a mistake you have the confidence to laugh at yourself and instead of thinking you’re an eejit the audience loves you for being human. But most important of all, when you ride that wave, you become hyper-sensitive to the audience reaction. You know when something is working and you know when to cut something off. You now have information that will feed your next performance and make it even better.
Riding the wave means that you have to open yourself to your audience. The first time you do it takes courage but the rewards are so great that next time it’s going to be a doddle!
Rating: 5 stars *****
Ps-you may have noticed a lack of updates lately here. This is due to builders in my house and upcoming college exams. Because of the fact that I don’t have a roof, desk or any time to spare, Bank Holiday Tuesday will be taking a brief hiatus- See y’all next month! xx
Niamh ‘I’m just stepping out and may be some time’ Keoghan