How to free yourself from how others perceive you?

When speaking in public, many of you have experienced what is called the “tunnel effect”. This is a very strange feeling, when you finish speaking and you remember almost nothing of what you have just said. You may have a few sensations – of saying or doing something – but apart from that, it is very difficult to remember precisely, especially with regard to the looks and interactions with your audience. Then again, some of you mention the feeling that you’ve been watching yourself!

Rest assured, I am not sharing a paranormal experience with you. We’ve all experienced this, particularly when we’re driving on a familiar route; when we park in front of our home, we realize that we have no recollection of the road, the lights and the other cars. Yet, seen from the outside, we were driving quite normally; we stopped at the red light, restarted at the green one, but we were on fully automatic mode.

In the example of the car, it is easily understandable that during the trip we simply thought of something else. And no particular danger required us to disturb our train of thought. But what are speakers thinking about when they experience the “tunnel effect”? It is difficult to say. On the other hand, attitudes related to automatic functioning are known and they consist of doing first and foremost what we are used to doing, what we do best, what seems simpler and faster to us and above all, what seems acceptable to others. Indeed, public speaking tends to increase the value that we place on what others think of us. This is something we can easily feel, well before starting our presentation: “There’s no way I can do this; what are they going to think; what will they say to themselves?” “I’m going to look ridiculous!” “What if they laugh at me”?

We have previously talked about the need to focus on your personal view in order to free yourself from the weight of how others perceive you and be more effective:

  • In terms of your interaction with your audience; even if in most cases the presentation goes well, some even manage a sweeping gaze over the room, the relationship created with your audience is necessarily limited
  • In terms of how you see yourself. The adrenaline triggered at the start of your speech increases your attention and response capabilities. Most of the time, the way the audience looks at you increases the weight of the way you see yourself: this is the moment where you ask yourselves basic questions like “what do I do with my hands,” “am I standing up straight?” …
  • In terms of your preparation, because projecting yourself into the future presentation causes stress and inhibition, which pushes you to procrastinate and delay the moment when you are really going to get down to work.

How can you progress step by step to enrich your relationship with the audience?

  • First, monitor the moments where your self-image takes precedence over your personal opinion. The moment you are afraid of being ridiculous, remember that there is a good chance that it is the way you’re thinking that isn’t appropriate. Gradually you will be more daring, you’ll develop new reflexes and increase your field of what’s possible.
  • Before speaking, remember that your goal is not to “do well” but to accompany your audience to a realization, which is supposed to change how they feel, think or do vis-à-vis the idea that you will share
  • Imagine your speech like a conversation. Although it is always impressive to address an audience, remember that you will catch their attention the moment they have the feeling that they’re conversing with you, that you can read what they’re thinking on their faces and that you can act and react accordingly
  • Work on the “mental map” of your presentation. Most of the time we see speakers play out their speech slide after slide as if they’re stringing beads one after the other. The more you will be able to situate yourself “geographically” in your presentation, the more you will be effective in your transitions and feel in control of your presentation and the less you’ll experience the “tunnel effect”
  • And finally, don’t forget the idea! Before each transition, when you visualize, either in your head or on your computer screen, the remarks that will follow, ask yourself: “what is the idea, why is it important to say this, what pleases me in all this?” By adopting this reflex, you will be more effective in building your sentences and more committed in expressing them.