When I have the privilege of coaching a new client to sound his or her best, I often begin by requesting that they complete my corporate communication self-assessment. Of the brief list of questions, I include a statement about confidence addressing a small audience vs. a large audience. While there are always exceptions, the majority of my clients have a far greater level of comfort speaking to a smaller vs. larger audience. Does that apply to you too?
Audience size is subjective so that means that what you consider small vs. large may vary from the next person. In general what happens is that as the number of individuals grows, so does the degree of anxiety or discomfort you may experience. Of course you may have your own reasons for this but by and large the issues are:
a. More people are perceived as “judging” you as you speak (more eyes and ears!).
b. Expectations are presumed to be greater if you have a larger group.
c. It’s not as natural to speak to many people and therefore it feels less intimate.
When you stop and think about it, we interact with people all day long. It may be in-person, by phone or virtually but typically we don’t over think it. The word “over think” is important. My contention is that we go into “over think” mode when we’re addressing more people and this is where we feel less confident. With that in mind, I encourage you to consider the following when speaking to a “larger” crowd:
1. Remember that people are still people whether in a small, mid-size or large group; this means they’re no different when it comes to meeting their needs.
2. Approach any group of people the same way you would with one or two individuals, especially when it comes to eye-contact. Rather than seeing a sea of faces, briefly look at different people so you feel like you’re having a conversation.
3. Consider your audience, no matter the size, a room of individuals vs. a group of many eyes and ears. What you have to say is of interest and doesn’t change with audience size.
When I coach my clients, we always discuss audience size relative to activities for engagement. That’s where size does matter…otherwise not so much. If this is a topic you’d like to work on, please feel free to contact me and we’ll achieve your goals.