Heaven help the public speaker whose audience finds out she’s nervous.
One bead of forehead sweat, one shaky hand, one mispronounced word, and that’s it. They’ll roar with laughter and her reputation will be ruined.
At least, that’s how a lot of public speakers assume their audience will react to their anxiety.
Fortunately, they’re wrong.
That’s according to Chris Anderson, curator of TED and author of the new book “TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking.” In May, Anderson spoke to Business Insider before an event at the Rubin Museum in New York City.
The audience, Anderson told us, is in fact “dying for you to succeed.”
Which is why, he said, “if you actually go on stage and you’re still feeling nervous, it’s okay just to tell the audience that. Audiences like honesty; they will actually embrace people.”
Anderson added that admitting to nervousness can be especially effective if you do it with “a little bit of humor.”
Anderson’s advice is similar to a recommendation from former FBI agent Joe Navarro: If you get nervous while giving a presentation, declare to yourself that you’re anxious and then declare to your audience that you’re anxious.
You can put it simply, for example by saying, “Boy, it’s tough talking to a big group.”
At the same time, this strategy isn’t universally endorsed for every situation. Amy Hoover, president of the job board TalentZoo, says that even if you’re incredibly anxious in a job interview, you don’t want to seem under-confident. “In this case,” Hoover said, “honesty is not the best policy.”
Regardless of whether you choose to disclose the fact that you’re nervous, perhaps the greatest takeaway is that your listeners are rarely rooting for your failure. In all likelihood, they know what it’s like to be in your shoes, and they’ll be delighted to see you overcome your anxieties.