Apparently, the thing we fear the most is public speaking. The fear of standing up in front of a group and giving a speech or making a presentation, out weights even the fear of death. Think about that for a minute. That’s big.
I spend a lot of time in front of groups and I get nervous every time I’m waiting in the wings. I’d get really worried if I didn’t!
Why am I telling you this? During a recent performance I noticed something happen in the audience that bugged me and wanted to share it.
So, last night I performed at a corporate event in San Francisco. This was the 20th anniversary of an investment company and they brought a team from the east coast office for a weekend with their west coast counterparts. I performed walk around magic during the cocktail reception and a 30 minute show after dinner.
Right at the top of the show I ask for someone to join me in the front of the room. One gentleman began waving his arms and pointing to a colleague that sat next to him.
“Pick her! Pick her!”
Not sure why exactly, but he was very enthusiastic about having her participate. She, on the other hand, not so much. In fact, she was doing everything in her power to make herself small and invisible. She tried to pull his arms down and failing that, she actually got up and scurried behind some other people at her table.
The last thing I want to do is bring someone up who does not want to be up there. She looked extremely uncomfortable with the idea, so I told her she did not have to participate if she wasn’t comfortable.
So the performance continues and about halfway through I ask for another volunteer. And the same thing happened. Again the man waved his arms and pointed at his colleague. Some of the other guys in the room cheered her on to participate as well. And again, she scurried out of her seat and this time crawled around to another table where she spent the rest of the show cowering behind a sympathetic coworker. She didn’t actually sit at the other table but literally crouched behind a couple of people.
This morning I recalled the performance and thought, “what a bunch of assholes.”
I get it. You’re having a good time with your coworkers and friends. And I can see how you’d think it might-possibly-sorta-kinda would be fun to put someone on the spot. I don’t necessarily agree with you, but I get it.
And let’s not even mention the fact that you’re making my job more difficult. There is a rhythm I’m trying to establish during a performance. Creating a spectacle out in the audience to grab attention serves nothing but your ego.
But, most importantly, when it’s clear that someone is in distress over your actions or perhaps has a fear -- a genuine fear -- like being in front of a room of people, and yet you continue to harass? Well, that’s just plain mean.
Know that if I’m lucky enough to have you in my audience you will be made to feel comfortable and treated with the respect you deserve. Even if you’re an asshole.