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How do you speak in front of a big crowd? You’re in front of five hundred, or a thousand, or three thousand people. How do you do it?
Here’s the secret: it’s no different than speaking to one person. Now, I understand it feels different. It feels scary. But here’s the secret great speakers have. It doesn’t matter if you love Ronald Reagan as a speaker, or Bill Clinton, or Tony Blair. All different speakers, different styles, different politics, but here’s one thing they have in common. When they’re speaking or were speaking to ten thousand people, or speaking to two people, they sounded exactly the same.
So, here’s the big secret when it comes to talking to large audiences: don’t change yourself. Because most of us, when we’re speaking to one friend or two buddies at lunch, we’re animated. We’re engaging, we’re telling stories, and we’re giving examples. Our hands are moving. Our face is moving.
We get in front of a large audience, and all the things we do that worked for us, all the things that were interesting that made us easy to listen to, we take that, we ball it up, and we throw it in the trash can. And we put on this fake persona, my fellow delegates it’s an honor to be here today. We become stiff and we become wooden. Our voice goes flat. We tense up. We grab a lectern. All these things we do because we’re scared. The problem is, as much as I love crutches, these crutches don’t prop us up. They bring us down. They make us worse.
So, you’ve got to simply tell yourself you’re talking to one person. You’ve got to use that tone of voice. Because these days if you’re speaking to a large room of people chances are you’re going to have a microphone, so you don’t have to speak like this because that’s really annoying. You speak in a conversational tone of voice.
Here’s the other trick: your eye contact. What a lot of people do is they’re like this the whole time. They may be moving, but they have this glazed look in their eye. You don’t want to do that. Or, they just zoom in here, zoom in here, and here. It’s too mechanical. What you want to do is just look at one spot. Ideally, if you can see people, look at one person for a full thought. That’s only five seconds or so. Go to another person in a different part of the audience. Pretend you’re having a one on one conversation with that person for a full thought. And mix it up. That will make it more relaxing for you. You’ll sound like you’re talking to one person. And it’ll keep your head from bouncing around and looking nervous and scared.
The other final tip is, it’s one of those things, the more you do it the easier it gets. Seek out opportunities to speak in front of large groups. Don’t be one of these people that says, well I could speak to one person, or I can speak to two people, or I can speak sitting in a boardroom, but I’m not a public speaker so I can’t. Baloney. If you’ve ever had one interesting conversation with one person in your entire life you already have all the skills you need to be a great public speaker in front of ten thousand people.