Public Speaking and the Kindness of Strangers

“Wow, there are so many eyes looking at me!” That was the first thing she said, our speaker for the morning. She was obviously nervous. She shifted her weight from foot to foot, fidgeted a bit, and then started talking about her subject. She didn’t get very far before she stopped and said, “Geez, I’m nervous. I had no idea there would be so many of you.” At this point, she seemed to lose her train of thought. She looked down at her notes but it was as if they weren’t there. “Man. Okay, let’s see if I can figure out what I’m saying…”

Just when it seemed that she would unravel before us, her audience rescued her. They jumped in with questions about her subject, even though she hadn’t said much about it yet. Any time she reached a place where she didn’t know how to proceed, someone from the audience would ask another question.

She got through her 20-minute presentation by answering questions. If the audience hadn’t swooped in like they did, who know what would have happened. And because they swooped in, I left that meeting thinking, we really can rely on the kindness of strangers.

We forget all too easily that people are basically kind. Audiences are generous and pretty easy going. They want you, the speaker, to do well and feel comfortable. So much so that they are willing to help you out in any way they can. But only if you let them.
Read more