When was the last time you had to deliver a speech? Were you nervous? The anxiety one goes through before giving a speech can be overwhelming. People often grasp at suggestions they have heard to deal with their anxiety, but these suggestions don’t always make sense. In this article, I’m going to explore some of these myths and how they can actually harm your speech.
- Imagine the audience naked or in their underwear.
This can actually be more distracting to you than helpful. If you are focusing on what clothes audience members are or are not wearing, you can’t be focusing on the message nor how the audience is or isn’t connecting with it.
- You are born with a public speaking talent – you cannot learn it.
It is remarkable how many people believe that speakers are born with a special talent. Public speaking is a skill that is developed through focus and effort.
- Avoid eye contact – focus at a point above the audience’s heads.
This is some of the worst advice I have ever heard. If you want your message to connect with the audience – look at your audience.
- Begin with a joke.
Careful, careful, careful. Jokes often offend. Never include jokes that don’t connect to your message. Poking fun at yourself can sometimes be okay, but leave the jokes-for-jokes sake out.
- Too much rehearsal is bad for me – I’m better just speaking off the cuff.
Practice, practice, practice. There is never any substitute for being well-prepared. I have never seen an instance where too much rehearsal ruined a speech. By rehearsal, I don’t mean memorization. Practice so you can speak with ease the points of your speech, referring to your cards and visuals.
- My experience trumps credible sources.
Good research reflects positively on you, no matter how much of an expert you are in the field. When you provide support for your ideas it adds credibility to your message. Quotes from famous people add value. Speakers who lack experience tend to overvalue their ideas and fail to support their ideas.
- Memorize your speech.
Memorization often causes people to disconnect with the audience. For experienced speakers, it becomes too rehearsed, too perfect…a performance. For inexperienced speakers, it can make the speaker look a bit crazy as if they were listening to the voices in their head, and not connecting with the audience. It’s OK to use cue cards and visuals in most situations.
- Hide behind a podium.
You cannot fully connect with an audience if you hide behind a podium. Step out from behind the podium, roll up your sleeves and get real with the audience. There are times when etiquette calls for a more formal presentation, but don’t use the podium as a crutch – it might not always be available.
- Shut off the lights to show a PowerPoint Presentation.
Visual presentations are there to support you, not take center stage. Don’t allow yourself to hide in the dark; you will lose way too much of your ability to connect with the audience.
- A mistake will destroy the speech.
Only if you let it. So often, the audience doesn’t even realize a mistake was made. Fix it, if necessary, and then move on. Your mistake will only make you seem more human and the audience may even relate to you better. Don’t ever start over.
- Being a good public speaker involves eliminating nervousness.
Your anxiety is a source of energy. Learn how to channel it to connect with your audience. Use it to empower your words, make your message vibrant, exciting. Audiences appreciate someone who put forth the effort.
- Skip the speech — go straight for the Q & A.
Many speaking situations call for a question and answer session. Always create a well-constructed message for your audience first, they deserve quality content.
The next time you have to give a speech, don’t fall prey to these myths.