Public Speaking Myths
“Myths are a waste of time. They prevent progression”– Barbara Streisand, American actress
Earl Nightingale once said we make our prisons. If we make our prisons, we can break out of them.
What prisons have you created from speaking myths have you fashioned for yourself that prevent you from becoming a great speaker?
Below are three speaking myths from the Institute of Public Speaking’s article Public Speaking Myths by Joseph Guarino that may be holding you back:
Remember, everyone was terrible at what they did before they got better.
You see the polished speaker wowing the crowd. But, you don’t see the many hours of creating presentation content, slides and practicing their delivery.
People in this world seem to speak in front of others effortlessly. However, they did not start that way. You only see the finished product. To deliver an excellent presentation takes forethought, preparation, and willingness to take a risk.
It takes time and effort to determine your main points and subpoints and craft your opening and closing.
The quality of your presentations is directly proportional to the amount of time and effort you put into their preparation.
It works like this: little effort – mediocre presentation; average effort – OK presentation; great effort – excellent presentation.
Many people have what you would call “the gift of gab.” Listening to such a person as a presentation evaluator would, you might find the person’s “gab” disjointed, no theme to what they are saying, and an abrupt, unexpected ending.
A genuinely sparkling and memorable presentation has what is described by the tagline on my college newspaper, The Vector – “with magnitude and direction.”
Wouldn’t it be great if all the presentations you attended had magnitude and direction?
I would prefer to listen to a non-natural-born speaker who has prepared their presentation well than a natural-born speaker who has not prepared well.
So, natural-born speakers always being the best speakers is a speaking myth.
Another speaking myth is introverts aren’t good speakers.
Introverts Aren’t Good Speakers
As with all human beings, you might describe people by the group you think they are in, like tall, short, or horizontally-challenged people. But human beings are as different as grains of sand on the beach.
One of these groups that comes with a stereotype is introverts. However, there is a wide diversity of traits among introverts.
When you hear the term “introvert,” what thoughts form in your mind? For example, you might think introverts are shy, tend to avoid crowds, and do not speak up in a gathering. Of course, you might be right about some of these traits, but people are much more complex than the label we assign them.
Introverts are more introspective. This introspection is one of the best traits of an outstanding speaker. Introspection allows introverts to do what Earl Nightingale says about ideas – roll ideas over in the rotisserie of your mind.
Introverts usually think before they speak – always a good trait for a speaker. Abraham Lincoln reportedly said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”
Personality type is not a hindrance to becoming an outstanding speaker. On the contrary, with the proper coaching, learning, and encouragement, anyone can become a much better speaker than they are now.
The last speaking myth we will explore today is that memorizing your presentation is the answer to an excellent presentation.
Memorization is the Answer
People come to hear you speak because they want to listen to your opinion and delivery and get to know who you are. They don’t come to hear someone recite what they have memorized. They can read themselves.
In these days of GPS in our cars, I know this may sound foreign. However, people used written directions or maps to get around not too long ago.
Written directions include making a left on Beech Street, going five miles on Station Road, and making the left after the bend in the road.
However, you could be hopelessly lost if you miss a turn or misjudge distance. But, if you have a map, you have options if you miss a highway, make a wrong left, or go 4.8 miles and then turn instead of the correct 5 miles.
Well, memorization is like written directions. You have to say all your words exactly as you wrote them when you deliver your presentation. If you forget a word, sentence, or paragraph, you are instantly lost in the “jungle” of your presentation without a “map” to find your way out.
Better to memorize ideas, not words. Earl Nightingale says to speak ideas, not words.
Speaking ideas is like a map you use in your car. You have options when you speak ideas. You can instantly rearrange what you say “on the fly,” reacting to your audience’s body language, questions, and comments. This allows you to better engage with your audience.
Memorization has the additional speaking trap of speaking in a monotone voice. This turns off audiences.
Put your efforts into speaking ideas. You will be glad you did.
We’ve talked about speaking myths today: natural-born speakers, introverts are not good speakers, and memorization is the answer.
Don’t believe these speaking myths. If you do, you will be creating your prisons.
Remember, though – you have the power to break out of your prisons!
Call to Action
Tell yourself positive affirmations like “I am becoming an outstanding speaker.” The words will eventually become your reality
Believe that being an introvert has nothing to do with you becoming an outstanding speaker
Memorize your presentation ideas, not your written presentation – speak ideas, not words
“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.”– John F. Kennedy, American President
Frank DiBartolomeo is a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and award-winning speaker, presentation and interview skills coach, and Professional Member of the National Speakers Association. He was awarded Toastmasters International’s highest individual award, Distinguished Toastmaster because of his outstanding work in public speaking and leadership.
Frank formed DiBartolomeo Consulting International (DCI), LLC (www.speakleadandsucceed.com) in 2007. The mission of DCI is to help technical professionals to inspire, motivate, and influence their colleagues and other technical professionals through improving their presentation skills, communication, and personal presence. Reach Frank at email@example.com and (703) 509-4424.
Don’t miss Frank DiBartolomeo’s latest book!
“Speak Well and Prosper: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Better Presentations”