It happens to everyone – you’re fine in front of one group of people, but in front of an audience with more education, or experience, or status then you? Your confidence nosedives, and you find yourself asking “who am I to speak to these people?”
This is at the heart of this question sent in by Lisa:
Hey Lauren, thanks for all the presentation advice, it’s been really helpful. My question is about confidence. I’m ok in front of certain crowds, like my team members or the people I supervise, but when I’m speaking to really accomplished people or to people who rank above me in my organization, my confidence takes a nosedive and I don’t present myself as well as I’d like. How can I build up my confidence in front of crowds I find intimidating?
Thanks so much, Lisa
Watch the video below for my full answer (You can click here to watch it over on YouTube, or scroll down to read the transcript):
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Lisa, what a great question! We tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves whenever we speak to people that we hold in high esteem. When we’re speaking to people who we think are more successful, smarter, more capable, or more accomplished than us, we tend to compare ourselves to them and start asking “why should they listen to me? Who am I to be talking to these people about this subject?”
It’s pretty hard to keep up your confidence when that sort of self-doubt creeps in. But fortunately, there’s an exercise you can do to help you figure out exactly why you are the right person to be speaking to that audience, no matter how admirable, authoritative, or intimidating they may be. This exercise is all about identifying what special knowledge, insight, or information you have that is of value to your audience.
Now Lisa, before you say “I don’t have anything new or insightful for them!”, there’s something you need to remember: If you’ve been asked to speak in front of a crowd – any crowd – it’s because they think you’ve got something they’ll find useful or interesting. Maybe you’re the lead on a project and you’re the only one who can report on it. Maybe you have an insider’s view on a topic or issue that the audience doesn’t because they don’t have their ear to the ground like you do. It could be that you embody some value that the audience holds in high regard, and they’d enjoy hearing you talk about it. Or it might be that because of a bunch of factors, like your education, upbringing, and outside interests, you have a unique take on a certain topic – one that is totally new to the audience because they aren`t you!
Think about all the different insights, angles, perspectives, and experiences that you’ve got that you audience might not have. Then ask yourself this question: “What insights, ideas, or knowledge do I have that my audience wants or needs?”
Your answer to this question will give you the reason why you are the right person to be speaking to this audience – why, regardless of your position, you have the authority to stand there and speak to them. Don`t overthink the answer, and don’t dismiss it because it doesn’t seem lofty enough. You can’t assume that just because your audience has experience or authority in one area that they won’t learn something new from you.
It’s the unique perspective that each speaker brings to a talk which makes them valuable to the audience, no matter what rank or job title those audience members might hold. Identifying your unique insights and perspectives will help you form a well of confidence that you can draw on any time you need to speak, whether the audience intimidates you or not.
I hope that helps you own the stage at your next talk, Lisa! And for everyone else, I’d love to hear your story – what kind of audiences do you find intimidating, and what do you have to offer them? Leave your comments down below.