Public Speaking Fear – How Questions Can Help

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Stage fright is the term used to describe that tingling, burning, scratching,bubbling, semi-nauseating bubble of fear that attacks you right before you present. It is as natural as flowers in spring time. It is as obvious as white shoes with a dark suit. It is as common as gas pumps at a gas station.

It’s also unnecessary.

Involving the audience in your presentation or speech is a great way to eliminate this fear from the beginning. You dictate the mood when addressing an audience. Showing signs of distress will cause your audience to lose interest. An easy way to show comfort is to engage and involve the audience from the word go.

This article will discuss 2 types of questions that will ease your pain.

Broad Questions

Questions are always a good way to start a presentation or speech. Whenever someone hears a question their natural inclination is drop their guard and think of an answer.

Think about this for a second. We’ve all been in conversations where someone has asked a thought provoking question like:

  • What is the meaning of life?
  • What will you be doing in 5 or 10 years?
  • If you won the lottery what would you do with the money?
  • Why do you support the Democrats/Republicans?
  • Is green investing a good idea?

Each of these are broad questions with no right or wrong answer. Each and every one of these questions forces you to free your mind and begin to think.

Wouldn’t you like an audience of open minded thinkers in your audience?

Direct Questions

The same theory applies to direct questions. Anytime someone is asked a question they begin to think of an answer. Direct questions invoke a stronger response. By answering these questions the right way you can quickly establish rapport with your audience.

The object here is to select someone from the crowd and ask them a question. You don’t want to embarrass someone or make them look incompetent. You want to show your audience that you are a warm and knowledgeable person worthy of their attention. If the person is wrong then acknowledge their error and elaborate.

Let’s walk through the best way of addressing a question when it is answered incorrectly.

Scenario 1 – The Wrong Way

You: “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?”

Audience Member: “You know, its interesting that you asked me that. I had a tootsie pop yesterday and I counted. The last official lick was 654. So it takes 654 licks to get to the center of a tootsie pop!”

You as the presenter have several options at this point.

You can sound an alarm, scream at the top of your lungs, or display a flashing ride neon sign reading “WRONG”. This approach alienates your audience and sends sliding towards the door.

Scenario 2 – The Right Way

You: “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?”

Audience Member: “You know, its interesting that you asked me that. I had a tootsie pop yesterday and I counted. The last official lick was 654. So it takes 654 licks to get to the center of a tootsie pop!”

You: “That’s very scientific and exact. I’ve never had someone answer that question with such razor sharp precision. I’d love to tell you that you are right but I can’t. Think back to the old tootsie pop commercial. The owl proved without a doubt that it takes 3 (and only 3) licks to get to the center of a tootsie pop.”

That answer was diplomatic, fun, and informative. It sets the tone for your presentation. If you want your presentation to take a different route then you can answer the question differently. You can choose to be serious, mysterious, fun, intriguing, or scientific. No matter the route you still need to be diplomatic and informative. Do that and the audience becomes your property.

Conclusion

Questions are a fantastic way to drum up interest in what you’re saying. Questions force us to think of an answer (right, wrong, or indifferent).

There are 2 ways to use questions as a lever to dilute public speaking fear:

  1. Broad- Broad questions are large scale and they involve your entire audience. You ask this type of question to wake up the entire audience and get their gears turning.
  2. Direct – Pointed questions are directed at one member in the audience. You ask this type of question when you want to set the tone for what is in store. Answer this question right and the red sea will part.

Don’t be afraid to involve your audience when you speak to the public. Getting them involved early is a way to make sure they are interested and engaged. Engaging the audience makes everyone in the room comfortable. When the audience is comfortable you can put your fear to the side and deliver the incredible presentation you were meant to give!

Marcus Smith is a creative force in the public speaking world who strives to meet the needs of each and every client. His experience as the Toastmasters President at a fortune 15 company will prove invaluable to you.

Visit his site at www.marcusasmith.com for more information

 

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