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How to Speak to a Large Crowd Impressively & Effortlessly

Addressing a large audience simultaneously has good and bad parts. The good part is that it is pretty easy to talk to a large crowd because no matter how big a crowd is, the basics are not different from when you are talking to your friend or colleague, telling stories in a relaxed and conversational way.

The bad part is simply understanding that it is that easy. We as human beings are hardwired to be nervous while speaking in front of large crowds. When we have an enormous audience watching us, we tense up. Our heart starts racing, we get scared, our memory stops working, our bodies sweat, and our hands shake.

First, we will get a bit more understanding of why this happens before we talk about how to overcome this fear.

How to Speak to a Large Crowd Impressively & Effortlessly

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Eric Lofholm
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TJ Walker
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Fear of a large crowd

Evolutionary biology can tell us how the fear of speaking in front of a large crowd originates. Human science says that we have a wild fear of public speaking. Human beings are hardwired to be nervous about public speaking because they feel separated from the herd. Naturally, you feel safe when you are among many species of yours rather than when you are all alone facing several other species. If you are running through the jungle, fearing that at any moment a predator could attack you, your body will react, sweating all over, including your hands and the soles of your feet. This sweat will help you; it will allow you to run faster and slip away more quickly. Your body tells you to run, releasing adrenaline and giving you more energy. Your thinking power becomes zero as your body consumes all energy to escape.

According to science, our physiological system starts the flight or fight response in any tense situation. When we are stressed, we can’t think clearly or recall information because our body tells us to run and save our life by giving all our energy to other body responses. This response is helpful if you are in the middle of a jungle to save your life, but not when you are about to speak about your business or at a conference of 2000 or more people.

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Tackling the fear with the right strategy

Many people are excellent at talking one-on-one, but they become nervous in front of large crowds. Tackling this fear with the proper strategy is crucial to delivering an impressive presentation or talk. Some people may try paper, while others use a teleprompter. Using a teleprompter may solve one problem; you can’t remember what to say, but it can become a disaster if you are not a professional using the teleprompter or do not have any practice. You will sound robotic reading what is in front of you without emotion and expression. Understanding how to make you relaxed, calm, and confident in front of a large crowd is the key to delivering an impressive speech at that spot.

Avoid yelling

A significant problem while addressing a vast crowd is having the psychological impulse of yelling to be heard by everyone. While delivering a speech or a presentation in front of a large audience, you have to keep in mind never to yell as you will undoubtedly have a microphone, which means you can speak in a conversational tone and use the full range of your voice. Nobody likes to be yelled at as it irritates the ear and creates a feeling that you are being hit constantly. Yelling always has a negative impact on your audience. Remaining calm in your voice and looking relaxed affects your audience positively.

Yelling at the audience, whether you are recording a YouTube video, addressing a live crowd, or anything else, makes you look angry or upset. That is probably not the image that you want to create about yourself. Considering the past, when there were no speakers and microphones, then speakers to a large crowd had to yell to get their message out to the most significant number of audience members. Speaking loudly makes sense if there is no amplification system around you.

In this age of technology, where you have many amplification pieces of equipment, your goal is to sound conversational without worrying about whether your voice is reaching the last row or not. You can talk like you are talking to one or two people, so you don’t have to yell. Fighting the instinct to yell is the biggest trick to speaking impressively to large public crowds.    

Keep the appropriate eye contact

One of the top secrets to addressing a large crowd effectively is having perfect eye contact. What usually happens to people addressing a large crowd is their eyes wandering, flitting around randomly. Even if you sound comfortable, your body language is confident, and you have something exciting to say, but your eyes are floating around the whole time, you will not have an impressive image. The crowd will also not feel comfortable and interactive with you. Looking at the whole sea of people will make you nervous. So this is what you should do to maintain effective eye contact.

Just pick one spot way out to the left and hold that eye contact for a complete thought or some sentences. Then go to a completely different part of the crowd, and hold your eye contact for a couple of seconds, i.e., five to six seconds. Then go to another part and so on. Practice this even when you are on a stage where there is a bright light and you cannot see the crowd. Steady eye contact for a complete thought in a particular area will make that part of the audience feel that you spoke to them. All other people seeing you will perceive you as supremely confident because your eyes are not floating here and there. So, whether there are lights on the audience or not, randomly pick different spots and maintain eye contact for a while. Picking random spots makes you look more natural than selecting spots in a specific sequence.

Slow down – use more pauses

A critical difference while speaking in front of large audiences is that you need more pause between your thoughts. It takes a while for your sound to travel all the way around a large room regardless of the number of speakers present there. Help yourself by pausing between your thoughts, giving a little more transition time, and letting your words filter out through the room. It allows the people to process what you are saying as they cannot see your lips and mouth, and they need time to understand your words. Although there may be a significant visual image magnified in the background, you still make it easier for people to digest if you pause between thoughts and paragraphs a little longer. If you speak a little bit slower than usual, it will make your words flow through the room more smoothly. Keep in mind that when you are nervous, you tend to speak faster than usual, but you have to get control of your nerves and slow down so and have more pauses in your talk.

Use images in PowerPoint slides

When speaking to a vast audience, you have to follow some specific rules for the use of PowerPoint slides. Some beginners may think to use texts or bullet points in the slides to convey their concepts and ideas, which is a complete waste of time. If you are in a room with 100, 1000, or even 10 000 people watching you, they do not want to read the text from 500 meters away or more. If you want to use PowerPoint in your presentation, it is better to use images and pictures exclusively to dramatize your key points. If you are willing to provide some text, graphs, charts, or explanations, give a link to that source, a pdf, or prints on paper at the end of your talk or presentation. The people willing to dive into the details can study it themselves when they want to. Do not present graphs or visuals that overly and seem complicated in front of a large audience. People can’t differentiate minor differences or details from a distance and adding them will just make your audience lose interest. People don’t want to read. They are here to listen to you.

Convey great ideas and concepts

In many ways speaking to a large audience is just like speaking to an audience of any size, even a small audience. During any talk, there is a chance that the speaker makes a horrible impression, or it is possible he does not make any impression which happens with most the speakers. There is also a chance he will make a great impression when he communicates great ideas and concepts which people understand and remember. This is the goal a speaker should set for himself. Don’t make your goal to just get through the presentation. It is like a defensive way of escaping from the crowd as soon as possible. Setting yourself the high target of making an impression to distinguish yourself from your competitors is how you can shine. Suppose you get a chance to speak in front of a large audience, do not turn it down because you are afraid. Take the chance to prove yourself that it is not that hard. Working on confidence-building strategies and practicing as much as possible makes you a great and prominent speaker.

Increase your confidence by video practice

Practicing by video recording is essential for any media presentation, one on one interview, seminar presentation, meeting, symposium, TV or radio interview. But if you are going to speak in front of a large audience, it is essential to practice on video. Because whenever you are going to speak in front of a large audience, it is natural and obvious that you will be nervous. But if you know in advance how not to look and sound nervous, you can be a game-changer. The audience will judge you based on the acts you do. If you do the acts associated with a confident, comfortable, commanding speaker, they will assume you are confident, comfortable, and commanding. If you have seen a video of yourself speaking in a way that you perceive as confident, comfortable, and commanding, you are not going to sound nervous when you are up there. What makes us nervous is often the fear of looking nervous and forgetting what we have to say. If you know how not to look nervous in advance, that takes the pressure off. The video practice makes you look and feel comfortable and with the utmost confidence. 

Conclusion

Speaking in front of large audiences is not as hard as it seems. The wild fear of a large audience is quite natural as we human beings feel separated from the herd, stared at by millions of eyes, and targeted. But understanding the strategies to overcome this fear can make things relatively simple. The main hurdle to tackle is the fear, after which you have to follow the same rules while talking to a couple of people or a friend. Fight the impulse of yelling to get heard by the crowd as you are using microphones, and it does not create a good impression on the audience. Maintain appropriate eye contact with the audience by randomly selecting spots and sticking for a thought or a few seconds at that place. This practice makes your audience comfortable and inclined to listen to you.

Using more pauses and slowing down is necessary while talking to a large audience, to let your words travel smoothly through the audience. Give the listeners time to digest the thoughts. If you are interested in using PowerPoint slides, use images exclusively and avoid text on the slides. The audience is not interested in reading the text and minor details on the slides. You must have exciting ideas and thoughts to share. Something that everyone would listen to with interest and take something from your talk to remember. This is the only way you can stand out from your competitors. Practicing on video is of utmost importance when speaking in front of a large audience. When you are confident about how you look and sound, you are likely to perform the best on the stage. The sense that you look and sound the best takes the pressure off your nerves, and you can present yourself impressively and effectively.

Do check out my Communications & Public Speaking for Beginners MasterClass online course here to learn more.

TJ Walker
Featured Uplyrn Expert
TJ Walker
Bestselling Author, Personal Development & Habits Expert, EntrepreneurNOW Network
Subjects of Expertise: Communication Skills, Public Speaking, Personal Development
Featured Uplyrn Expert
TJ Walker
Bestselling Author
Personal Development & Habits Expert
EntrepreneurNOW Network

Subjects of Expertise

Communication Skills
Public Speaking
Personal Development

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