The Australian Small Business Blog

Friday, December 15, 2006

Public Speaking Myths Debunked


There are some myths about public speaking that need debunking. Here are some of the and the truths:

One myth is that speaking in public is innate. In other words, some people can do it; others can’t.

The truth is that almost anyone can become an excellent public speaker if they know what to do and how to do it. Research has shown that it is 80% skill and 20% “gift of the gab”. The natural leaders and extroverts are given many more opportunities to speak up. They often volunteer to “say a few words”. Hence, they get more practice and become more confident and competent. The reluctant speaker can be taught how to learn tricks and methods. The 5Ps (prior practice prevents poor performance) helps as does many other tips.

A second myth is that you do not need to look at your audience. You can look above them or just scan the room in a vague sort of way.

The truth is that you must look at your audience. How else can you tell that they are responding to you? And this is the way to connect with them, which is exactly what a good speech does! When you are showing visual aids, you must still look at your audience and not the slide or power point. (You can quickly scan the monitor to make sure which slide is up) otherwise you may not know how long to leave a visual up there.

A third myth is related to the second one: imagine your audience naked!

What an off putting idea! Seriously, would you really like to strip middle aged men and women naked as you talk? You would probably burst out laughing! Besides, it will take your mind off what you are saying. Keeping your mind on what you are saying, stops you going blank and focuses you on your topic, which is what you should be thinking about 100% of the time!

Another myth is that it is okay to read a speech.

No, it is not! You can have the whole thing written out if you need to. However, you are better off with dot point notes and clear sequence ready. You need to learn the first bit off by heart and especially the last bit. Use “ready, aim fire” to say your speech. That means you look down when you need to, to see what is next. Look up (aim) and then “fire” the words at a particular person or people.

The last one that is also wrong is that a speech is like an essay.

No, it’s not! A speech has some common elements: Introduction, body, conclusion. Metaphors work well in both and language is important. However, in an essay, you need

Judith Field is the director of Direct Speech.

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