The Secret of the Incredible Shrinking Audience

Now how to put that thought into practice: You need to actually speak to your audience as individuals, rather than in the aggregate. If you’re not in a darkened auditorium, make eye contact with one person for a few seconds, then connect with another individual, and so on.
Ignore the silly advice about looking at one person while you express one idea, or even worse, as you utter a single sentence. When robots take over the world you can go that route. Just speak organically and naturally, just as you do when you’re chatting to someone one-on-one. And randomize where you look: none of the HERE-HERE-THEN-HERE-DING! like a typewriter carriage moving in one direction then back to the start and repeating the whole process.

If the house is dark (though of course the stage is lit), or the event is jumbo-sized and you’re so far away that you can’t make out individual faces, then speak to each section of the audience. Each person will think you’re talking directly to them. Even better, now you’re dealing with a small group—the type of audience that never made you anxious in the first place. You’re having a conversation with a few people who share your interest in this topic. Nice.
May I Talk to You Privately for a Moment?
Here’s the added benefit to that last point: You’re at your best when you’re speaking one-on-one, i.e., when you’re conversational. Let’s face it: the public speaking situation is artificial, and we have to learn how to handle ourselves within in. In terms of evolution, we’re wired to speak to family, to a small group around a fire, or to a segment of our tribe. Facing a thousand people, all of whom are staring at us waiting for us to do something, can play to our primitive instincts like a hostile situation.
But it’s just something that in our modern professional lives, we have to learn to live with and master. But here’s the thing: Everyone you’re speaking to is wired the same way you are. They too like small, intimate chats that involve a conversation around that campfire. They’re comfortable listening and responding to someone they feel close to. And you’d better believe you too are at your best when you’re a part of such a simple and natural conversation—from eye contact to body language to vocal warmth and expressiveness.
So have that conversation with each small group you talk to, one by one, inside that large audience. Whatever the numbers of attendees involved, nothing could be more natural.

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