Your Halloween Horror – Public Speaking Tales to Spook, Scare, and Shock You!
A chilling tingle trickles down your spine as you stare at Public Speaking Academy’s latest article … Fret not! For those of you immediately thinking of switching your screens, today’s article will not have any ghost or horror elements (phew!). In the spirit of Halloween as we enter October, we thought it would be apt to share some of the ‘horror’ tales we encounter as speakers while speaking on stage. Aside from the scary ghosts you see in movies, most of our terrifying experiences on stage stem from another great fear – the fear of public speaking!
As you go about your public speaking journey, you are bound to encounter situations that will leave you paralysed with fear on stage. From a technological failure to a difficult client, these elements can distract you from the message you intend to deliver. If you don’t recover fast (especially while on stage), your fear will be left exposed to your audience and the world (or at least everyone in the room). Each of this experience, however, offers us a chance to learn how to respond to such ‘terrifying’ situations while on stage.
To start your public speaking ‘ghost-busting’ journey, here are 3 horror situations you may encounter!
The Ghost of Technology
As you stare at your computer screen, you felt the heavy absence around you. Alone in the silence, you ponder where everyone has disappeared to … especially since you still have a 5 – 7-minute speech to give! With the shift to online presentations and communication settings, one of the common scenarios that you may encounter is a break in your internet connection. Imagine preparing the perfect speech for months only to be disconnected from your Zoom audience!
What can you do then in such a situation? Here are 3 steps you can take if you experience a poor or bad internet connection for your online presentation! First, remember to remain calm and not panic. Reframe your mind from “everything is out of control” into asking yourself “what is within my control”. Second, take charge of the problem-solving mindset. Ask yourself: “What is my priority?” You may spend a long time trying to resolve your internet issues when a quick switch to another device (or mobile data plan) could have allowed you to re-connect with your audience faster. Third, remember to guide your audience through the service recovery process. When you return, take stock of where you had paused and resume from there!
Zombies, Zombies, and … Zombies!
The listless eyes, the open mouths, the moving hands – they are coming for you! We are referring to your audience members, of course! You may not have encountered zombies, but you may have encounter zombified audience members trying to stay awake for your presentations. It may be daunting for you, especially if the audience members’ reaction was unexpected. Beyond that, you may also have to grapple with the challenge of deciding whether to adjust your presentation content or delivery style.
Here’s a 3-step toolkit for you to combat your ‘zombies’! First, avoid taking the audience reaction personally! Their reaction may not be an accurate reflection of your presentation content or delivery (e.g., they could be tired from a long day before your presentation). Remember to stay focused on your value-giving objective. Second, introduce a pattern-break to give the audience members a new stimulus. If you are in the middle of an information-filled segment, try to incorporate a discussion or activities that would involve audience participation. Third, give your audience an easy, memorable package to remember your speech or presentation by. Try a summary, a tagline, or a quotation to ensure that those audience members who missed out on the core parts of your presentation will still retain the main messages.
The Terror Tyrant
You stand in silence as the fearful words escaped his mouth … “I think your presentation is a tad boring”. You may have encountered that tough word or feedback from a client or an audience member (tactfully or otherwise!). It may be difficult to try and respond to such a snarky comment in a calm and measured fashion. Of course, these clients or audience members are not tyrants; the situation, however, may feel terrifying.
Instead of panicking, here are 3 elements you can look out for to help deal with the situation! First, appreciate the reason instead of reacting to the comment. We may feel tempted to jump at the tone or choice of words – the tone or word choice is not something within your control. Instead, take the calmer route of understanding the reason for the comment. Second, continue to build that relationship with the other party. The fact that they are sharing the comment with you means that there is still room to show your sincerity in collaboration. If the base concern is reasonable, you can propose a different format or presentation style for the next opportunity. Finally, know your threshold. The methods above do not mean that the other party is entitled to abuse you. If the comments are unreasonable or simply a personal attack, remember to disengage and suggest another opportunity for a fruitful discussion. Let the other party understand the impact of their words, reflect, and cool down before re-engaging.
Every Experience a Learning Experience!
The journey to grow as a public speaker and communicator is far from smooth-sailing. There will be points where the obstacle may be too challenging. Remember, however, that these obstacles act as a learning point as well – every experience is a learning experience! This Halloween, find the ghosts haunting your public speaking journey and try out some of the steps above to help you face your fears head-on!
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