A practical strategy to overcome audience intimidation
I had an exchange this week with a person who is preparing a guest post for my blog. She expressed anxiety about this opportunity — it’s scary to think that your writing will be seen by thousands of people around the world. In other words, this is a case of audience intimidation!
Audience intimidation is a common anxiety. Putting yourself out there in a public way can be nerve-wracking. I’d like to share a mindest with you that has helped me get through some tough spots.
Let’s start with a story about one of my scariest, most intimidating career moments …
Facing audience intimidation
Two years ago I was invited to give a keynote address before some of the most powerful marketing executives in the media industry. The audience included elite marketing leaders from Disney, NBC Universal, and WarnerMedia to name a few. So for starters, I’m thinking … “WHAT THE HECK AM I DOING HERE?”
The ultimate in audience intimidation! But it gets worse.
The speech I was asked to deliver was based on my book Marketing Rebellion.
This book serves as a wake-up call to the marketing industry, revealing profound research that suggests a radical new approach to marketing is needed. And that approach demands less and less paid advertising (certainly a prediction that is coming true!).
In summary, I was about to take the stage before a room full of executives whose livelihood depends on ad sales and tell them that their ad-based business model is out of sync with a consumer world that is desperately avoiding ads.
I did a lot of introspection before this talk. Was I really prepared to embark on the equivalent of a professional speaking suicide mission? Would I be booed off the stage?
Should I water down my message? Should I change my talk entirely? Should I change my name to Seth Godin? Should I take a fast train to Mexico and hide?
Let ‘er rip
Here is where I ended up. In fact, in any scary situation of audience intimidation, it is where I always end up.
I can only be me.
I have to show up in an authentic way. This is me. This is my message. I am confident in my work, my book, and the preparation for my speech.
I can only show up in a way that is intellectually honest, fair, balanced, and trustworthy to the best of my ability. Anything else is false and unsustainable. I can’t be somebody else or say something I don’t believe is true.
In any intimidating situation you only have one true choice: Let ‘er rip.
Push the fear aside and do the only thing you can do. Be you. Take a deep breath and let ‘er rip.
And here’s what happened next
I gave my talk with confidence. After all, that is my job.
But it helped to imagine being in front of a more receptive audience. I could not dwell on the fact that I was probably freaking these people out. So I imagined that I was simply in front of my students at Rutgers.
When I finished, nobody attacked me. In fact, I earned a big ovation.
And then the most amazing thing happened.
The afternoon presenters — including the execs from Disney and Universal — referred to my talk in their talks! They were reflecting on the truth I had presented, even though it was difficult to hear.
This is an important lesson. Great leaders embrace the truth. So if you’re telling the truth, I the end you’ll be OK.
I’d like you to think about your own situations of audience intimidation. I’ll bet that in almost every case, you ultimately decided to “let ‘er rip” and it turned out to be OK.
So perhaps this is a helpful lesson. In a stressful situation, you always end up in the same place — being you, telling the truth, and doing your best. So instead of having anxiety about a situation, just realize, like I did, that you really only have one option!
Mark Schaefer is the executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions and COO for B Squared Media. He is the author of several best-selling digital marketing books and is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant. The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.
Illustration courtesy Unsplash.com