Addressing a large audience simultaneously has a 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.
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 nervousabout 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.
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.
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.
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.