Apr 30, 2020
It’s no wonder you hate public speaking. Why your hands get sweaty, your heart beats fast; your mouth goes dry. Why, when something goes wrong, you panic, why you spend hours practicing only to end up forgetting what you have to say.
It’s no freakin’ wonder.
It’s no wonder why you say things like “I’d rather get in a car wreck” than do that presentation that’s on your schedule. It’s no wonder. . . Why, when you finally do make your way through whatever speaking thing you’ve got to do you end up reviewing it in your mind, with excruciating detail, picking out every “mistake” you made, everything you should’ve done better, every audience member’s face creating stories in your mind about how bored they were.
It’s no freaking wonder.
It’s no wonder you hate public speaking so much because people like me, like your old teachers, like the speaking experts you watch on social media, handed you a list of to do’s, a false set of formulas, tips, tricks, and fixes and told you if you followed them that your fear would go away. That if you did all of the things, that you would be able to put on the performance of a lifetime. We promised you to standing ovations, feedback sheets filled with positive comments, and endless streams of requests to speak coming in.
It’s no wonder you hate public speaking so much. Because we told you things like;
-don’t read but don’t memorize (oooooook?)
-practice makes perfect (uh-yeah, until it makes you neurotic)
-personalize what you have to say (but don’t be too personal)
-use big gestures (but don’t distract your audience)
-avoid death by PowerPoint (but make sure you have slides for people to follow along)
-tell stories (but don’t’ make it too much about yourself)
-remember that it’s a performance (therefore you better put on a good show)
-know your audience (except that’s impossible ‘cuz you can’t KNOW everyone, you don’t)
-get in the zone (you’re not playing football, where the heck is the zone)
-don’t’ start a greeting with a great hook (people are not fish, and Hi is a typical human-polite human greeting)
-deliver a jaw-dropping experience (sometimes what you’re talking about is boring, period, like a board meeting, don’t’ try to get cute, say what you’ve got to say and get out. CONTEXT matters).
-if you make a mistake, you’ll leave a terrible impression (way to scare people and underestimate the audience listening to them)
-what do I do with my hands (grown adults, asking what they do with their hands, a reminder here, you’ve been using them your whole life, you know what to do with them)?
It is no freaking wonder you hate public speaking.
And I’m so sorry because you deserve to be heard. You deserve to speak without fear. You deserve to share your stories, your data, your ideas…without being afraid.
I’m apologizing now because I have taught all of these things at one point or another, not realizing that in so many cases that “the sage” speaking advice so that so many people give, actually stops people from ever starting. I mean, there are So.many.rules. (and I say rules lightly because for heaven’s sake there’s no public speaking police task force waiting to come to get you if you start unknowingly fidgeting because you’re nervous).
You hate public speaking because you’ve been led to believe that to be successful at it that you must put on an act. And somewhere in the back of your mind, you think if you wanted to act, you’d have gone on to study acting and become a Broadway star. What’s even worse is that you’re afraid that, if you speak as yourself, you’re going to be rejected for what you say…so put on an even bigger act… and it all seems off.
There are so many rules that tell you “how to act” with the underlying implication that if you somehow fail to hit all of these markers, YOU will be a failure, in front of lots of people, which is embarrassing. We’re humans, and we avoid embarrassment like it’s COVID (yup, I said that, meaning that some folks go to extremes with this, one way or the other).
It’s no wonder so many people stay silent.
A conversation is defined as a talk, especially an informal one, between two or more people, in which news and ideas are exchanged.
I’m going to say that one more time, a conversation is defined as talk, especially an informal one, between two or more people in which news and ideas are exchanged.
Doesn’t that sound easier? Doesn’t that sound better? Doesn’t that sound, dare I say it…more authentic? Doesn’t that eliminate the need for you to “BE THE EXPERT” and “PROVE YOUR CREDIBILITY” and instead allow you to share what you know with the people who you are talking to in a normal and natural way, for YOU. Your style, using tools that help you and your audience understand. Eliminating the need to have it ALL FIGURED out and instead allowing you to structure things in a way that makes it easy for you to say and easy for others to understanding.
You aren’t a Broadway star; you are a person who already knows how to talk, how to have a conversation.
You have conversations every day.
It’s no wonder you hate public speaking, you’ve been told from the get-go it’s something that’s hard and that only the elite few who chose to dedicate themselves to it will ever be truly successful at.
Dang, that’s isn’t that like telling a kid to quit gymnastics or football before they even start because what’s there’s no point if you don’t make it to the Olympics. For crying out loud, way to be a buzz kill.
Listen, before we ever talk about things that might be helpful to you as a speaker it’s important for you to know that you don’t have to view public speaking as a performance; as an act. In fact, if you decide to stay along for the ride, I’m going to actively tell you not to. I’m going to tell you why practicing ad nauseum is really killing you, I’m going to tell you that the best thing you can do with your hands is whatever the heck you’d normally do them (except pick your nose or a wedgie or something, I mean there are some things that are just weird to do in public). We’re going to talk about why your stories matter and why you shouldn’t tell them all or go all crazy vulnerable with your audience. We’re going to talk about when it might make sense to smile, even though you don’t feel like it and when it makes absolutely ZERO sense to smile. We’re going to talk about all of these things and more.
Because I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you can speak. I know that you need to speak. I know that you want to speak and be heard. I know that you have something to say and that you need to say it your way, in your words, so it carries the kind of impact that you’ve always wanted to make. I know no one else can say it like you. And I know that if you don’t, you will live with regret.
Today, I’m going to leave you with this question. What would say today if you knew tomorrow, you’d never speak again?
Think about that and let me know because I’d love to listen to what you have to say.
Thank you so much for listening. I am Alex Perry, the owner of practically speaking, where I coach and keynote on all things, public speaking, storytelling, and communication. You can find me on LinkedIn under Alex Perry and on Instagram and Facebook ad at PS with Alex.