What to do when there is an expert in your audience

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 July 2015 12:51 Written by Pam Chambers Monday, 1 July 2013 03:18

The biggest reason people are afraid of public speaking is that they fear making a fool of themselves. “What if people find out that I don’t know what I’m talking about?” Or, “What if there is an expert in the audience who knows more than I do, and sets out to prove it?”

In 1982 I was speaking to a group of beginning speakers about how to make money with public speaking. I was feeling pretty sure of myself because I had just begun to charge money and I believed I had something to offer this group.

About five minutes in my talk, in walked a man named Capt. Gerald Coffee. At that time, he was earning $4,500.00 for a 45-minute talk. That’s $100.00 per minute. I was rattled by his presence and felt that suddenly, I had no credibility. I wished he would just go away!

A little voice said, “Use him!” I pounced on that solution and said, “How fortunate we are! Everyone, this is Capt. Gerald Coffee and he is the highest paid speaker I have personally met. Capt. Coffee, perhaps a bit later on, you’d share some tips with us about how to set speaking fees.”

He looked pleased, and said, “Of course!” This was good. Instead of feelings threatened, I positioned him as a helper. That’s what to do if you ever have an expert in your audience: praise, control, and make use of.

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