Tip #89: Handling Anxiety in Front of Large Audiences

There is a persistent mistaken belief that lecture is the only training method appropriate for a large audience. This can place a huge constraint on a trainer and generate a lot of anxiety. As we have discussed in previous Tips, it is important to use the most appropriate training method for the desired level of learning- regardless of the audience size.

If you are the recognized expert on a topic and the desired learning level is knowledge, then a lecture may well be appropriate. However, if the desired learning level is comprehension or even application, you can still be interactive with large groups. Begin with common ground questions related to the topic, to which they are instructed to raise their hands: “How many of you have been in the industry for 5…10…20.. Do I hear 30 years???” The idea is to ask enough questions so that everyone has ultimately raised a hand- which subtly primes them to participate verbally.

Even if the audience is seated in a tiered lecture hall, it is still possible to create small groups for interactive exercises. Have them turn to their neighbor and pair up- or create a small group with the folks seated around them or immediately in front or behind them.

A simple “Thumbs up if you agree and thumbs down if you disagree” will give you a quick and easy read on the comprehension level in the audience.

One concession you will have to make with a large group is that you will not be able to have every pair or group report out their answers or conclusions. Instead, you will need to draw volunteers from various parts of the room.

Also, there is a greater need to repeat questions, responses, and other comments from participants so that all can hear.

If you need a microphone, use a lavaliere so that you can move around. Also use a remote for your PowerPoint. Make sure you are not tethered to one place- simply being able to move will dissipate some of your nervous energy.

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