If you’re not a seasoned public speaker, the task of giving a presentation in front of a group of people can make your palms sweat, your mouth go dry, and your stomach turn.
Saudi Arabian security engineer Mohammed Qahtani was named the World Champion of Public Speaking at the Toastmasters International annual convention on Aug. 15, but he wasn’t always so confident.
Just like anyone else, he had to learn to overcome his fear of public speaking, made worse by a stutter he’d struggled with as a child and periodically as an adult.
He discovered a surprising psychological strategy to get over his stage fright and get in the right frame of mind: by telling himself he is better than his audience. Now, when he gets on stage he becomes filled with confidence and his stutter disappears.
“I’m not saying this to be an egotist!” Qahtani said. “But keep in mind that you are better than everyone who’s watching you because you have the courage to stand and they don’t.”
This mental trick changes your perception of the power dynamic that exists between you and the audience. The social anxiety that creeps in for many novice speakers is the fear that audience members will judge you and are waiting for you to make a mistake.
The reality, however, is that nearly every audience member wants you to succeed, Qahtani said. They are sitting in front of you because they believe you have something to teach them, and they’d like to be enlightened and entertained.
They expect you to be “better” than they are.
“The more you believe in that, the more relaxed you become,” Qahtani said. And when you step in front of your audience, he added, you won’t be crippled by the prospect of stumbling over your words or forgetting something important. Instead, you’ll think, “Even if I make a mistake, so what?”
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