Large audiences can intimidate some public speakers, but the requirements for preparations are really similar for large and small audiences alike. Public speakers should remember three key elements when creating and preparing a speech that will help increase the effectiveness of the speech and reduce anxiety. Maintaining good eye contact, using clear, slow speech patterns, and becoming aware of the effects of body language are all important aspects to address by the speaker.
Some speakers are nervous when presenting in front of large audiences, but the preparations are really quite similar, no matter the audience size, and some speakers actually find large audiences easier to present to. Small audiences sometimes make the speaker feel pressure to make eye contact with each individual in the audience or feel that the room and circumstances are too close for personal comfort. Speakers can find it difficult to make eye contact with even a fraction of large audience members, but scanning the room slowly will give the impression that eye contact is being made. Maintaining eye contact with just one or two audience members should typically be avoided, as this could make some audience members feel singled out and uncomfortable, and maybe even give the impression that the speaker is only presenting the information to a select group of audience members. Speakers should remember to look to the back of the room as well and occasionally make eye contact with members of the audience at various locations throughout the room.
Speakers should also use a clear, even pace when giving a presentation. Speaking slowly will give the presenter more authority as it will clarify the information and actually make the speaker appear to be more knowledgeable and confident. The speaker should also remember that this is the first time the audience will hear the information presented and not have all of the background rehearsal knowledge of the speaker. Because of this, it is also extremely important to enunciate clearly while speaking and not mumble through words. While rehearsing for the presentation the speaker can time himself and then actually make it a goal to add to the length of time simply by speaking more slowly. When speech patterns are full of mumbling and words spoken too quickly, the speaker will actually sound nervous and have less authority.
Some speakers feel overwhelmed when speaking in front of large audiences, but it is important to not let the body language show it. There are small nuances that many people perform while speaking to groups that they don’t even realize are happening. Some of these include foot tapping, leg and weight shifting, finger drumming, body swaying, and other distracting actions that might not seem consequential but can take away from the presentation. An audience that is distracted by physical movements and fidgeting of a speaker will not gain as much information from the presentation. Speakers can videotape themselves while rehearsing in front of friends and family to look for these nuances. There are some speakers who don’t have physical movements, but are instead almost immovable during their presentations. In these cases, not moving at all can be just as distracting, and more unnatural, than fidgeting. Speakers can also rehearse with a videotape movements and gestures that are natural and enhance the presentation quality.
Preparing for and giving presentations to large audiences can be made easier by using a few key approaches to the process. Speakers should maintain good eye contact, speak slowly and enunciate well, and be aware of distracting body language while working toward an informative and effective presentation.