Busting the Myths About Speaking

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It’s no myth that talking to groups is one of humanity’s greatest fears. Talk to each group and a large number will suffer from what psychologists call glossophobia. Even those who have spoken confidently to the group in the past may find that the other group experiences dry mouth, shortness of breath, flushing, sweating, emptiness, or many other debilitating symptoms. While training certainly helps, even the most prepared speakers can sometimes be affected. So what can you do?

Experience has shown that many of these fears are based on false beliefs – the myths that develop around public speaking – and busting those myths can be the key to success.

Myth one – if I miss something, I miss it

It’s a misconception that the audience cares about what you’re missing. You will be confused if you miss an important step or point; but presenting the presentation exactly as it was prepared is only important to you.

The biggest danger is that your desire to do it right can replace your ability to excite your audience. It’s a waste of time to “fix” if you’re not listening. Stop worrying about leaving things behind.

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The second myth – if I am good, listen from beginning to end

We all expect your undivided attention and write our presentation on that basis. The reality is that very few will listen to everything you have to say. They effectively “switch” the channel between what you say and their own attitude or experience. This internalization is important for engagement, but interferes with attention and engagement. You need to make up for this with very repetitive themes and loops to make sure they can follow through when they get engaged again.

Myth three – more things make me more attractive

We load our presentations with interesting stuff that turns speech into a data dump. Most presentations can be improved by extracting irrelevant information. Identify key information and bring it to life with examples, illustrations, word pictures, and stories.

Myth fourth – I must not get lost or my mind be corrupted

Short memory gaps are not uncommon when speaking – even with full-time employees. Bring your key moments into the stream of thought to switch if you get lost. Add important names or phrases to your notes and bookmark them so you can find them easily. Most of the time, the audience won’t even notice that you’ve checked your notes; and if they do it doesn’t matter. This is not a memory test – your ability to remember your presentation has nothing to do with your confidence in the audience.

The fifth myth – I’m not good enough to talk about it

It’s called “Scam’s Syndrome” and all speakers experience it at some point. They think you have to be an expert on a subject to have the right to talk about it. If there was someone in the room who could find out more about it, then they should talk. Of course, you’ll need to be familiar with your subject and/or have experience in a field where sharing is possible, but forget about the “expert” tag. Even if everyone in the room knows your subject, you have a unique perspective and different focus that makes it useful.

Myth Six – Some topics are just boring.

No boring topics – just boring presentations. Find examples, case studies, and stories that will make your content relevant to your audience.

Follow these tips and stop being afraid to talk so they don’t hold you back.

Kevin is an experienced conference speaker, facilitator, moderator and MC.

He has spoken at conferences and seminars in Australia, New Zealand, Asia and the UK, specializing in sales, negotiation, business humor and communication skills. He is the co-author of eleven books on communication skills and humor in business. His articles are published regularly in major daily newspapers in Australia and Asia.

Kevin is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) offering the highest level of professional speaking skills and is the only one that is internationally recognized. He is the former national president of professional speaker in Australia. He was inducted into the Australian Speakers Hall of Fame.