People spend a lot of time worrying about stage fright and all the mistakes they might make when giving a presentation.
You can pave the way to being a more confident public speaker by making the world a friendlier place—as a better audience member.
Buckley director Karen Kalutz marks her 30th anniversary with the school next year and prides herself on being a good audience member. “Having once been a nervous speaker myself, I try to do everything I can to support the person speaking,” she says. “And when I’m coaching, I’ve seen it’s a great way to encourage a speaker to try something new or push through those nerves.”
Here are three things she does to help speakers from her seat in the audience.
“Nothing’s more discouraging than trying to deliver a speech to people who are distracted,” Karen says. She closes the laptop, puts the phone away, resists any side conversations—so that anyone speaking can see she’s engaged.
Paying attention is the first step, but Karen says you can do a lot more. “Smile at the speaker, for starters,” she says. “When you’re up there, feeling nervous, that friendly smile means the world. If you’re presenting and you make locking eye contact with me, you’ll also see me nodding a lot, just to let you know that I’m cheering you on.”
“I’m a human laugh track, and I think I may startle people with my enthusiasm. But I know how good it feels to get a laugh from your audience—at least, when you’re trying to be funny. That's why I make sure to give every speaker encouragement by laughing long and loud.”