Thursday, April 27, 2017

39 lies, myths, and mistaken notions speakers tell themselves

As a professional speaker coach, I hear a lot of lies, myths, and mistaken notions from speakers--mostly things they tell themselves about their speaking and presenting. Really, the 39 items on this list are assumptions, but often, they're not backed up by data or evidence.

Yes, they may be your experience, or what you think is your experience. Or they may be, as the meditation masters like to say, thoughts that are "real, but not true." In many cases, the things you tell yourself about your speaking are the biggest barrier between you and successful speaking.

Take a look at the list of the myths I hear speakers repeat most often, and see if you recognize any that you're telling yourself:
  1. If I use slides, no one will look at me.
  2. If I use slides with pictures, no one will know I'm using them as cue cards.
  3. It's important to read my slides to be sure all the information is conveyed.
  4. Everyone always uses slides.
  5. I'm telling that joke at the beginning for the benefit of my audience. It doesn't have to connect with my topic.
  6. More jokes are better.
  7. It would be impolite if I don't spend time right at the beginning thanking everyone.
  8. I need to use slides to have a record of the presentation, for investors or absent interested people.
  9. My slides make a good takeaway or handout.
  10. I need to summarize my presentation right at the start to "tell 'em what I'm going to tell 'em." Otherwise, no one will pay attention.
  11. I also need to "tell 'em what I told 'em" at the end, so the audience can remember what I just said.
  12. Everyone can tell that I'm nervous.
  13. Everyone can tell that I didn't prepare.
  14. If I prepare, I will seem too forced and unnatural.
  15. Everyone here knows more than I do about my topic.
  16. I will get questions.
  17. I won't get questions.
  18. If I prepare a lot, my presentation will go better.
  19. If I don't prepare, no one will notice.
  20. I don't need to prepare.
  21. If I memorize my talk, I will sound like a robot, or an 8-year-old child who's memorized a poem.
  22. I need a lectern.
  23. I use my hands too much.
  24. My voice sounds awful.
  25. I have to have my notes in my hand on stage, and I won't look at them.
  26. I look better in black.
  27. I look like Steve Jobs in black.
  28. No one will hear my dangling jewelry, even if it's near the mic.
  29. I look fat on stage.
  30. I can't look at the audience or I'll faint.
  31. I have to look at the audience or I'll faint.
  32. I need to change things right up to the last minute.
  33. They're really listening to me.
  34. They're really not listening to me.
  35. I need to speed up so I don't bore anyone. Keep it moving.
  36. I can't slow down. I'm from New York (or wherever you are from).
  37. I can't speak with a script.
  38. I can't speak without a script.
  39. I know everything I need to know about public speaking and presenting.
If you do recognize these as your own thoughts, it might be time to investigate why you keep telling yourself these things, and whether there's data or evidence to the contrary. And if the lack of data is because you didn't practice and try something new, try that approach first. Your coach recommends it.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by scaty1)

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