4 Damaging Myths that Can Worsen Fear of Public Speaking


Myth #1: Public speaking is dangerous. This is a particularly widespread and damaging myth. Not only are audience members not your enemy; but even a failed presentation will rarely result in your being fired, demoted, or even seriously compromised in your job. Speaking isn’t a perilous adventure on the order of any of the things that should really scare you, no matter how hard you try to make it so. Remember, a diamond is formed by pressure, and only afterwards is it polished. If you find speaking in public challenging, that means it’s a golden opportunity for you to shine.

Myth #2: Nervousness will make your performance worse. Rarely is there a true link between feeling anxious and giving a bad performance. At least in all my years helping speakers, I’ve seldom found one. Quite to the contrary, there are many stories from business and the professions where someone will speak and then say to a colleague, “I know I was horrible . . . I was so nervous.” And the other person will respond: “Really? You looked fine to me.” Here are 10 ways to stay fully focused in your speeches and presentations.

Myth #3: Everyone will see how nervous you are. And once they do, the entire audience will doubt your credibility!  This is nonsense. Most nervousness isn’t visible to others because it’s internal. And if people do see you’re nervous, they’ll most likely have the normal reaction, which is to sympathize with you. Since audience members feel good when you’re succeeding and embarrassed when you’re failing, they’re actually on your side and want you to do well.

Myth #4: You have to be an excellent speaker. Who says so? If you’re a motivational speaker by profession perhaps that’s so, but otherwise it isn’t true. The belief that you have to be “excellent” is often a hindrance to effective public speaking because it confuses polish for true communication. When you speak to people (who almost always want to be in the audience), your job is to connect with them and give them something of value. Your task isn’t to be slick, charismatic, or a stand-up comic. So concern yourself instead with being honest and trustworthy. And if you happen to give a lackluster presentation, so what? Failure can be the best of teachers, since you’ll want to do that much better the next time.


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