When anticipating a speech or presentation, do you have any of the following symptoms:

Don’t know where to begin?
Worry about being interesting or relevant?
Have a tendency to ramble or go off on tangents?
Experience anxiety or nervousness?

Repeat after me ten times, “It’s all about them. It’s not all about me!” Okay, you should be all better now!

It can be such a relief to frame your thinking around “them” – the audience – and can take such a burden off of you!

If you don’t know where to begin, or how to be interesting and relevant, think about them or go find out about them. Go deep, and think seriously – or do research to find out – about what this audience really, really cares about. You want to ask yourself, at the end of the day, what do they really care about when it comes to my topic or expertise? Not what you care about, but what they care about . . . this might require a bit of an adjustment.

If you tend to ramble or go off on tangents, it might be that you find your information very interesting and compelling. Or it might be that you’re so knowledgeable and eager to share it, and/or that you like to be thorough. Either way, it doesn’t matter. It’s not about you. It’s about them. Every audience is listening for the what’s-in-it-for-me nugget. If there’s even a question in your mind as to whether the audience will share your enthusiasm for all your info, then you should limit your talk and be sure to give them something of value. Set firm parameters for yourself by thinking about them.

Oh, and here’s a quick tip for you . . . If you’re really not sure what they really care about, or whether they will share your enthusiasm for lots of detail on your topic, ask yourself this question: why is this audience in the room, by choice or by obligation? Aha! Naturally, if they are there by choice, you have a bit more latitude with time and detail. However, if they are there out of obligation, then you are well advised to be brief.

And, finally, if you are nervous before speaking to a group, look at them, think about them, connect with them. It is said that nervousness is just your body’s adrenaline gearing up and giving you the energy to perform well. That may be, but I say turn to them for some relief. Warm up by talking to members of the audience before you begin formally, or open your talk with a question, be sincere about receiving input, and engage in some dialogue or banter. Share the floor with them, and all of you will have a more enjoyable experience!

Beth Levine