David Portney at Best Public Speaking Training has written an article on how to Prevent Stage Fright. He has a great idea to meet and greet audience members just before your talk. I have advocated this for many years. I hope I have David’s permission to mention his article and to add to his helpful ideas.
David’s advice about meeting people before your talk allows a speaker to create a genuine connection with listeners. When we feel connected we feel safe to share our ideas.
There is a specific kind of eye contact that makes it feel even safer to connect. I call it a soft-eye contact. By consciously making connection through the use of soft-eyes, you shift from judging others to accepting and receiving them. To make soft-eye contact, relax your eyes, letting the eye muscles feel soft. Then gently land your eyes on one person in your audience, imagining that you are drinking him in through your eyes. Don’t reach out to try to grab the person with your eye contact: that creates a distancing hard-eye contact. Instead, simply be with him and allow yourself to receive the flow of his attention. You will experience taking that person in, as though you are allowing his energy to come in to you. It is an amazing feeling to receive another person! The connection made seems deep, yet comfortable and oddly safe.