How to Speak to a Large Audience by Peter Dhu

While many people fear and struggle with public speaking in general, a large audience can be one step too far. Think about speaking at a conference with 200 people or keynote speaking to 500 participants or delivering a wedding speech to about 100 friends and relatives. 

During these situations, it is undeniable that the large audience only amplifies our nervousness and anxiety around public speaking. If you struggle when speaking to a large audience, these tips will help boost your confidence in delivering your message in front of a large audience.

  1. Take a comprehensive briefing

Before the event, you will need to speak with the event’s coordinator to find out how many people will be in the audience, what demographic they are in, and their work background. You also would want to know what time slot you will be speaking and what the purpose of the presentation is. These details will help you plan and prepare accordingly. 

  1. Spend sufficient time for preparation 

Aside from preparing your speech, part of your preparation should also include doing an industry search on the web. This will help you to effectively choose your stories, examples, and anecdotes to match your audience. Having this information will help you tailor your message to the audience. Also, think about practicing with a colleague or a coach to ensure you are delivering the right message. 

  1. Arrive early 

Having little knowledge about where you will be speaking or delivering your speech also adds to the anxiety and nervousness. To overcome this, it helps if you visit the venue days before the event to get familiar with the location and the room. Try walking on the stage to get a sense of the room size. This will help you feel comfortable with the venue, allowing you to focus more on your speech rather than be conscious of where you are standing. 

  1. Meet the audiovisual technician 

If you will be using PowerPoint slides, give them a copy well in advance of the event. Spend time to do a practice run on some of your slides, and test out the microphone and the speakers, especially if you will be playing a video or audio during your presentation. The audiovisual technician can save the day for you if things go wrong.

  1. Use a conversational style 

When speaking to a large audience, it helps if you speak in a conversational tone. Yes, it can be difficult and challenging to have a conversation with hundreds of people at the same time, but if you think of it as simply a one-on-one conversation, it will reduce your nervousness and make you feel more comfortable.

  1. Know your audience 

Knowing who you are speaking to, regardless of the audience size or the venue, helps you to prepare the content of your message and plan how you will be delivering your message. Understanding your audience also helps reduce your anxiety because you are now familiar with them.

  1. Use the platform 

If you are speaking to a large audience, it helps you feel more comfortable if you walk around the platform. Remaining behind the lectern will not only make you look stiff but puts a barrier between you and your audience. The lectern stands in between you and your audience, making it difficult for you to reach out to your audience and vice versa. 

In the end, speaking to a large audience is the same as speaking to a small audience, just amplified, and multiplied. Remember, that it is about your message and how you deliver it to your audience and not about the audience size, the venue, or the event itself. Just have a conversation one-on-one with all 500 people in the room.

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