Public speaking is like anything else in life that cannot exist without some myths, and today I am going to take a closer look at the most common public speaking related myths you should know about.
I am 100% certain that there is no such a thing as a “natural born speaker” or anything else these public speaking myths described in this post claim to be true. So, let’s dive in and debunk the 17 biggest public speaking myths that are holding people back from improving their public speaking skills.
Table of Contents
Myth #1: “The audience will reject me, and I am going to feel embarrassed.“
The first myth that I believe has prevented people from really taking that next step to develop public speaking abilities is the risk of rejection and embarrassment.
The simple truth is that public speaking has nothing to do with being rejected. How often do you get rejected? How often do you feel embarrassed?
You don’t get rejected or embarrassed because you presented an idea or because you spoke or because you provided a presentation.
No. It just happens because being rejected is part of living, regardless of whether you speak or not.
But unfortunately, people have attached that felling of embarrassment to public speaking; therefore, it has become a myth, and as a result, prevented people from trying to improve their speaking skills.
Myth #2: “You have to be a natural born speaker.”
No Olympic gold medal winner was born with his/her parents looking at him/her and saying “Oh, my son/daughter is a future winner of the bobsled medal.” Every one of them had to practice and practice and practice some more before getting any results.
Malcolm Gladwell once said that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to be an expert in a particular area.
What does that tell you? It has nothing to do with your natural abilities. If you have natural talent, but you never practice or work on improving, then you are not going to get any better.
So, if you want to sharpen your skills, don’t be obsessed with the thought that you were not born for public speaking.
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Myth #3: “Good public speakers are not nervous.”
You know…I’ve been teaching people (in general) since 1996 and giving public speaking courses (in particular) since 2007.
Nevertheless, every time I stand in front of a new group of people, I feel this scratchy feeling inside me and an inner voice that says, “You know, it would have been much cozier to be back home on my couch, binge-watching Netflix, rather than speaking in front of these people here.”
I still feel nervous in my body. Sometimes, the feeling is stronger; sometimes not so much – but it’s still there. Actually, I am afraid of the day when I feel as comfortable speaking in public as I do watching TV back home, because this would be the first time my speech would be as dull as watching paint dry.
So, no matter how good you are…it has nothing to do with being nervous. And guess what? Being nervous is actually good for a speaker, because it shows that you are conscious of your message. It shows that you care about your message and are invested in making sure that your words are acceptable to the audience.
Being a good speaker has nothing to do with being nervous – whether you’ve been speaking for one day or you’ve been speaking for 40 years.
By the way, everybody is nervous before they speak so don’t worry about it. I have written a couple of thorough posts about how to overcome stage fright. Take a look at these articles here.
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Myth #4: “You have to be a native speaker.”
If you haven’t realized it yet, I am not a native English speaker. I am (a proud) Estonian, and I know for a fact that I have a thick accent and I make tons of grammar mistakes while speaking or writing in English.
But regardless of that, every year I present 10-15 public speaking training sessions in English, and you know what? After the training sessions, no one has ever complained about my accent or my grammar mistakes.
They actually encouraged me to speak more often because the more I speak English, the better I get.
So, whether you are a native speaker or not, that should not stop you from speaking. I have seen hundreds of speakers who are speaking in their language, but this did not stop them from being as boring as hell.
As long as the audience understands what you are trying to say, and as long as your message is compelling, they will not pay any attention to your language skills – especially if they know that you are not a native speaker.
Myth #5: “Men are better public speakers than women.”
I don’t understand how this can even be an issue. I’ve seen lots of great female speakers. If you don’t believe me, then just go to the Youtube TEDx channel and see for yourself.
So, whether you are a male or a female, you have to believe that you are a much better public speaker than you think you are.
Myth #6: “You have to be serious while giving a speech.”
Brendan Gill said, “There is not a shred of evidence that exists in favor of the idea that life is serious.”
Rule of the thumb, though, is that it all depends on the event, topic and your audience. I like to make jokes on stage, even if the topic is serious. I don’t force myself to be funny, and I don’t force myself to be serious. I just deliver based on how I feel and how the audience is responding to my speech.
You have to remember, though, that if you are not a funny person and cannot tell a good joke, it is also okay to be serious when on stage.
If you are a funny person, then please be reminded that if you’re not ready to laugh at yourself, then you are not ready to be successful. Also, if you’re not ready to be laughed at, then you are not ready to master your skill.
Sometimes I deliberately make fun of myself and people appreciate it every time, especially if during this story I describe how I have failed with the topic we are discussing at this point.
Therefore, be reminded that being serious has nothing to do with being a good speaker.
Myth #7: “If you go on stage you have to be an excellent speaker.”
That myth is somewhat ironic. How do you become an excellent speaker if you don’t have any experience?
Before becoming an excellent speaker, you have to try and fail and try and fail. Only then you will become an excellent speaker but not the other way around.
Myth #8: “But I am not a public speaker type.”
This sounds more like an excuse not to try, because there is no such a thing as a “public speaker type.” Everybody can be an excellent public speaker. Yes, even you.
Basically, if we narrow it down a bit, every time you open your mouth you are speaking publically. It doesn’t matter whether these conversations are with another person or with a group of people – this is public speaking.
From now on, if you want to make excuses, forget about this “I am not a public speaker type” nonsense.
Myth #9: “You have to start your speech with a joke.”
Of course you can begin your speech with a joke, but sometimes it may be very inappropriate. Therefore, keep in mind what type of event it is and what kind of speech you are making.
Whatever you do, don’t start a speech with a joke just for the sake of making your statement sound funny. Your joke has to be relevant to the speech and your topic, otherwise your joke may backstab you in a way you hadn’t expected.
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Myth #10: “Just take a drug or beta blockers”
If you have a fear of public speaking, you probably try to fuse solutions in the past. Let me name some of them and debunk myths surrounding them. For starters there’s this idea that you can just take a beta blocker that will keep you from getting is tensed up.
Now they don’t make you high, but they do keep you from being as tensed up. I think that’s masking the problem. I know a couple of people who used beta-blockers. I do not recommend them.
But if you’re still giving an awful speech if you’re still boring what good does it do. And what happens when you have to speak, and you don’t have these beta blockers.
The real problem is you’re not sure you have a great message and a great speech. And we got to focus on that that relates to some of the other solutions.
Myth #11: “Let me Do a couple of shots”
People said “Let me just do a couple of shots of tequila. I’ll be relaxed, and I’ll do fine.”
I get the problem quite often is not that you’re tensed up. The problem is you haven’t prepared the right way, and you’re not entirely sure that you’re going to give a great speech.
The problem with alcohol is that it slows down the recall process of your memory. So it’s even harder to think about what you were going to say. And I’m not talking about after you’ve had 14 drinks and you can’t remember your name.
Now you’re already tense and nervous, so your brain isn’t working as well as it usually does. Now, if you add that little extra element of the alcohol, it slows you down even more.
Plus with alcohol for some people, it can also make you a little sweaty that will make you look nervous.
The other problem with having even one glass of wine before a speech, is quite often people come up to you afterward shake your hand. It may be the only time they meet you in their entire life if they’re smelling alcohol on your breath.
That may be the one thing they remember. So I don’t recommend that.
Myth #12: “Your speech has to be perfect.”
No one is perfect – everyone makes mistakes, even the most experienced presenters.
Keep in mind that you won’t start off being good (or perfect). You start and develop into being good – with practice.
The thing most people do not realize is that there is no such thing as a “perfect speech” – at least not for the speaker him/herself. Every time you finish a speech, you know precisely what went wrong and what you need to improve next time.
Now, if you ask of your listeners if they noticed that you left some parts of the speech out or how many mistakes they noticed, you would be surprised at the answer: “Well, I did not notice these things you are talking about.”
So it’s okay to make mistakes. If you make a mistake that is obvious, then make a joke about it – people will love you because you will seem more authentic as a speaker.
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Myth #13: “But no one wants to listen to me!”
Actually, you would be surprised at how many people are willing to listen to you. If your message is clear and you present it in an unusual way, they will be eager to hear you, even if you’re not confident on stage.
They’re willing to learn from the experiences, and they’re eager to learn what you know. As long as your speech has a point, and you are a nice person on stage, people will support you. But you have to get yourself out there. You have to speak more often.
Myth #14: “Only tons of information makes me look credible.”
Being credible has nothing to do with the amount of information you provide, because sometimes if you give too much information, the audience may be bored.
It puts everybody to sleep because it is just a boring data dump. One more thing to remember is that your speech should have different parts with lighter content. If everything is important, and there are no transitions with lighter topics, it will be hard for you to point out what is the most important thing you want to say.
So one of the things that you should definitely do is getting rid of the boring data dump.
Myth #15: “You have to be more educated than your audience”
What a crap is that?
What people perceive as education is different. For some people, education is strictly what you get from school, and for other people, it’s mostly your own life experiences and failures.
Your listeners may have an M.D. or Ph.D. but if it does not have anything to do with the topic you are delivering today, then who is the expert in this room at this point? Of course, it is you.
Myth #16: “You have to please everyone in the audience.”
Are you a one-hundred dollar bill that everyone likes? I didn’t think so.
If you are the type who is always concerned about pleasing other people, you are not going to be successful. Keep in mind that it is impossible to please everyone in the audience, and if you’re trying to please everyone in the audience then you’re not going to be successful, and you’re bound to fail
So, as a speaker, your job is to deliver the best that you have, because no matter what you speak about, you’ll still have some people in the audience who have a terrible day or problems in their lives. Your goal is to focus on people who respond positively to you.
Just give it your best and try not to please everyone.
Myth #17: “You have to follow the rules of public speaking.”
Of course there are techniques that you can learn over time that will help you in different situations.
- How to use your hands and body language
- How to use voice
- How to walk on the stage
- How to make pauses
- How to make an introduction that grabs attention
- How to memorize a speech
- How to use notes
But to say that if you have no experience and you don’t know how to use these techniques, then you’re not a good speaker, is a myth. The more you speak, the more you will develop all of these skills. You will discover many techniques yourself.
Your goal is to continue to speak, and over time you will develop your own skills, guidelines and rules. I have discovered many techniques over time, and these are the ones I am sharing with you in this blog.
Conclusion: biggest public speaking myths debunked
I hope that debunking these public speaking myths help you to release that energy that you might have buried and begin to work on improving your speaking. My goal is to help you achieve that goal. Therefore, I would suggest you take a look at these articles I have written. They can be found here.