Facing the Critical Crowd

      With the experience that comes from doing a lot of public speaking, professional politicians, company leaders or those who regularly speak in public for any reason usually look extremely calm, cool and confident when facing the crowd in the room or on radio and TV. They may have butterflies careening back and forth inside, but we can't see them.

      What protects them from that debilitating fear that prevents others from even dreaming of facing the critical crowd?

      One of our biggest fears when we think about getting up to speak is that the audience, small or large, will be evaluating us and looking for ways to prove us wrong. We worry that they're seeking ways to verify we're incompetent, that we don't deserve to be standing in front of them. We fear that our opinions are worthless, they'll think we don't know what we're talking about. We tell ourselves we have a lot of nerve thinking we're someone to be admired or respected. In other words, we're just not good enough, smart enough or successful enough to expect to be taken seriously by anyone.

      None of this is true! This kind of criticism is all in our heads. The audience isn't interested in any of it. They're focusing on what we have to say and whether or not they agree with it.

      Our job as the speaker is to do what the audience is doing: focus on what we have to say. Whatever happens, no matter what their reaction, we can't take it personally!

      The fact is, we really can't expect all of the people to agree with us all of the time. There are always going to be those who think what we have to say is garbage, who can't listen to anything without needing to criticize it.

      They're the ones who go through life judging everything and everyone by their own particular standards. What they think of you or your speech has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. Taking their criticism personally is a lesson in banging your head against a wall. They'll never change. Don't waste a minute worrying about them.

      The real truth is there are always going to be people who think you're terrific. They respect what you say, listen with both ears and take seriously the wisdom you're offering. Speak to them! Focus on the ones who 'get' you, not the ones that don't. If you took a poll, most of the audience would be on your side, wanting to learn from you. Talk to them. Give them the benefit of all the goodness that's in you. They deserve it, and so do you.

      For the few who are readying the poison arrows, remember that it's not about you, it's about them. It's their own personal agenda, their inability to open their minds and hearts to new ideas, their refusal to give anyone a fair hearing. You may never be able to reach them.

      It's not your fault. Don't take it personally!