Myths – or any type of untrue information – can spark unfounded fear and confusion in many situations. The same is true with public speaking. Public speaking myths are a twice as damaging. Many people assume that if they’re not a natural-born speaker, get butterflies before speeches, or don’t use professional speech-writers, they can’t successfully speak publicly. That’s why below, we’ll bust several commonly-held pieces of folklore about public speaking that have long held people back when it comes to realizing their full potential. Below are a few of the biggest public speaking myths, and we will try and debunk them all.
4 Public Speaking Myths — Debunked
- 1) You have to memorize your speech. In fact, memorizing every single word and phrase of your speech can cause you to come across as stilted or boring, and can cause you to trip up if you’re searching for the precise phrasing included in your draft. Instead, try breaking up your speech into chunks and memorizing the main theme or idea of each one, says Rob Biesenbach, Author of “11 Deadly Presentation Sins.” If you internalize the core tenants of your speech, you will never rehearse it in the same way – which is a good thing. Memorizing important parts of your speech, like the introduction and conclusion, along with internalizing the core parts of your speech, will allow you to come across more authentically and personally.
- 2) If you’re a good public speaker, you won’t be nervous. Even the most well-spoken and experienced speakers still get butterflies before they take the stage. Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal explained how to make this kind of stress your friend by viewing the pre-speech rush of adrenaline as empowering instead of anxiety-inducing. This adrenaline rush will provide a heightened sense of awareness, and ensure that you’re truly passionate about what you’re speaking about. However, public speakers should take a few deep, calming breaths before the stage to harness their creative energy. Remember that apprehension isn’t a sign of under-preparation – it can be used to create an even more powerful connection with your audience.
- 3) Good speeches are all about the writing. Communication through body language has become a hot topic of conversation for the past few years, and with good reason. According to Toastmasters, the best public speeches and TED talks are actually movement-based. The best speakers walk around the stage, working the crowd and adding in hand gestures to create texture and context to the talk. This level of familiarity in front of a crowd takes time, so adopt a “fake it until you make it” approach until you get more comfortable adding movement into your speeches. Purposefully plan the areas where you can add hand motions to emphasize a point, or walk among the crowd to make a personal connection.
- 4) A knack for public speaking is just a talent people are born with. When it comes down to it, no one is a “natural” public speaker. Even extroverted people that derive their energy from being in front of and among others don’t actually have a public speaking advantage over introverts. Great public speaking requires more than just a loud voice and a charismatic personality – it requires knowing and playing to your strengths, and not letting your perceived weaknesses get in the way. Any person that is perceived to be a “natural” public speaker came to be that way through practice and hard work – even introverts. These types of people shouldn’t try to imitate high-energy, extroverted speakers like Tony Robbins, but should instead approach speeches thoughtfully and at their own pace.
In conclusion, anyone can become a fantastic public speaker if they set aside these myths and put in the time, practice, and dedication needed to overcome their insecurities.