How Come It’s Harder
to present to a group versus to an individual? Or to a large audience versus a small one?

I’ve Been Hearing This Question
a lot from clients recently. Someone who feels totally at ease in a more relaxed setting (say…a fireside chat kind of interview) may freeze up with discomfort in a larger, more formal setting (say…on stage at a podium).

Why Is This?
I think most of us are more comfortable when we’re talking to people we know. It’s easier to make eye contact. We have a better sense of how they may respond to us. Smaller groups feel more personable and manageable. There are fewer unknowns.

E Pluribus Unum
Bear with me here. This famous motto, found on most U.S. currency and dramatically clenched in the eagle’s beak on the Great Seal of the U.S., actually provides us with an important presentation clue. The Latin translates as “out of many, one”.

When You Have “Many” In Your Audience
speak as if you are talking to “one”. Rather than look at the whole room and get overwhelmed, find one set of eyeballs at a time and direct your comments to that one person.

Quadrants Are Your Best Friend
You can divide any room, from your office’s conference room to a hotel ballroom, into four quadrants. Your goal, as the presenter, is to direct comments specifically to each quadrant. This feels to an audience as if you are talking more directly to them. Imagine beloved family members or dear friends sitting in each quadrant. Talk to them!

One Idea To One Person
Deliver a complete thought to one recipient. Don’t let your eye contact meander around the room as you meander through a sentence. Each new idea, topic area or bullet gives you an opportunity to move your eye contact to a different set of eyeballs. Then stay there to finish the point.

Your Goal
is to think of this large audience as being a conglomerate of individuals. And it’s each individual who’s going to receive your words. The whole goal is to break down the fear of the many and remember that your message will be heard by the one.

On The Other Hand
some presenters feel exactly the opposite. Are you one of them? I’ve worked with clients who find large groups easier than small ones. The relationship dynamics or interpersonal powerplays of a small group disappear in a bigger setting. Perhaps there’s more anonymity and safety in speaking, knowing no one’s going to answer you back. It can feel cleaner.

The Bottom Line
All communication is one-to-one. Keep it real. Keep it human. We’re all in this together. Fun factoid: “E Pluribus Unum” came into being on July 4, 1776, American Independence Day, and the 13 letters in the phrase were symbolic of the union of the original 13 colonies which became the United States. Ta-daaah.

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