With public speaking such an important and essential skill in today’s world and yet public speaking still causing a lot of fear, anxiety and nerves, here are 5 common myths that could be holding your public speaking back.
1. I need to control my nerves
Many people come to me for help and coaching in controlling nerves before public speaking. The common request is “How can I control my nerves so that I can be a better public speaker?”. Or “How can I get rid of my nerves so that I can start to do public speaking?”.
The reality is that you do not need to get rid of nerves to be an effective and engaging public speaker. In fact, many great speakers still report nerves before, during and after their presentation. And they have learnt to live and speak with their nerves. Their nerves come along for the ride. In fact, nerves can be beneficial and elevate you into your peak performance state, where you are sharp, alert and agile and ready to respond to your audience and their needs.
TAKEAWAY: Please do not wait to be free of nerves before you do public speaking.
2. Just tell stories
I have attended conferences where the presenters just tell stories. They tell their life story and they have overcome adversity, they have climbed Mountains and they have achieved great sporting heights or they have some level of fame. And they have had no impact on the audience.
Their stories were just that, their stories, with no point, no purpose or value or any benefit to the audience. If you just tell stories without a point, then you are simply an entertainer or maybe just hot air. So, unless you are an entertainer or an actor, your stories should have a point that is relevant and of value to your audience.
TAKEAWAY: Make sure that your stories have a point that relates to and benefits your audience.
3. I need to be polished and near perfect
Another common question I get from clients wishing to undertake public speaking is “What do I do if I muck up, make a mistake, lose my way, mispronounce a word, stutter, or forget some of my content?” And from that I can tell that they want to be perfect. These people like to have a full script and either read from the script or learn it word for word.
The reality is that no audience, at a workshop, seminar or conference, expects the speaker to be word perfect and 100% on script. Most audiences expect a speaker that is real, human, authentic, genuine and most of all, conversational. Conversations are not word perfect. Conversations are full of little hiccups and imperfections, but they are engaging and informative and connect the speaker with their audience.
TAKEAWAY: Don’t be perfect, rather focus on being conversational, human and real.
4. Imagine my audience naked
Relating to point 1 and controlling nerves, one of the oldest myths is “just imagine your audience naked” and that will help you relax. I am not sure that it was ever good advice and if it ever had any positive impact on reducing nerves and anxiety. Today, there are much better strategies to control nerves, from deep breathing, relaxation, mindfulness and focusing on being present.
In this age of political correctness and respecting all people of this world, I am not sure that imagining anyone naked, let alone the entire audience naked, is an appropriate strategy. And if it is a strategy that you use, please do not tell anyone.
TAKEAWAY: There are many effective strategies for controlling nerves and anxiety before public speaking and imagining your audience naked is NOT one of them.
5. My message is king
Your message is important and should be targeted to your audience and have benefit for your audience. But it, alone, will not make for a brilliant talk. Some people spend hours crafting their message, as if writing a bestselling novel. If someone has a powerful and important message, that they deliver by reading word for word from a script, with no emotion and no body language, they will not have impact and they will be unlikely to influence their audience.
Stamford University did some research that showed people do not believe people whose body language, voice (emotion) and nonverbal’s do not match and align with what they are saying. I teach people to have a clear and simple message that is delivered with passion, purpose, congruent body language and emotion. This will have great impact and help you be more influential when public speaking.
TAKEAWAY: How you deliver your message is as important, if not more important, than the words and the message itself.
If you are interested in improving your public speaking skills, Peter Dhu as an Executive Public Speaking Coach and Trainer can assist you. Connect with Peter through LinkedIn, send him a message or leave a comment below.