In popular use, a myth can be a collectively held belief that has no basis in fact. In the first ten years of pushing my own limits in public speaking, I came across several collectively held believes that have no basis in fact. Here are my five favorite myths of public speaking.
Myth 1: There are no opportunities to speak.
Since 2003 I’ve been living in Spain. In Spain you find great weather – it’s sunny most of the time. In Spain you find great ham – Jamón Jabugo. In Spain you find great fiestas – from Feria de Abril in Seville to San Fermines in Pamplona. But there’s one thing you won’t find in Spain… wedding speeches. Isn’t it amazing? The country of flaming Flamenco turns silent at weddings. But – would the others hinder you from standing up and giving the most emotional gift, a speech, to a loved one?
There are no opportunities to speak is one of the typical excuses I hear in my trainings:
- I only do video conferences.
- We only have seated meetings.
- I never present anything.
It’s a myth. Yes, it’s true; public speaking opportunities don’t fall off the trees. But you can climb up there and pick the fruits. You can smash the meeting standard and ask for a 3-minute presentation slot at the beginning. You can speak at anniversaries, you can speak at Christmas parties, and you can certainly speak at weddings – even in Spain.
Myth 2: We have to use the corporate PowerPoint template.
Yes, Florian, full-screen images, black background and huge fonts sizes are great, but we have to use our corporate template. My standard response is: This is always a general truth until your CEO and the head of marketing participated in this training. Afterwards this rule is obsolete.
Make two slide decks – one for your handout, one for the screen. The first one may follow all your corporate design guidelines. The screen version is different. The screen version must complement your speech. It’s like a visual aid. Your message and the supporting arguments are much more important than your corporate design guidelines.
Myth 3: You cannot do that!
Isn’t it amazing? People always know exactly what cannot be done.
- You cannot sing in a business presentation.
- You cannot tell personal stories in a presentation at a medical conference.
- You cannot skip the “Thank you” ate the end of your speech. That would be arrogant.
And the best? Most of the people who say that have never done it! They never added a sung fragment of All you need is love to their presentations. They never told personal stories in any speech. They never skipped the Thank you at the end. They never asked for feedback. They have no idea what can be done or not.
The only thing you can never do is… bore your audience! You cannot do that is a myth.
Myth 4: Others just have it.
Another great excuse. Sure, others may have an advantage. Maybe they’re more positive because their father didn’t hit them every day during the first 13 years of their life. Maybe they’re extroverts who love to be with people and share their thoughts with everyone. Maybe they’re more self-confident. Maybe they’re more charismatic. But guess what – you can have it too!
I’ve seen far too many timid, shy, introverted people flourish like spring meadows. Personal growth is a painful pilgrimage. Not everyone is willing to take that path. But to say, others just have it, that’s too easy. That’s a myth.
Myth 5: Public speaking is not for me.
Public speaking is one of the biggest fears in the world. A fear I easily avoided myself for more than three decades. Until the age of 32 I just stayed quiet. I didn’t speak up in my soccer team meetings. I didn’t speak up at my father’s 70th birthday. I was convinced public speaking wasn’t for me.
In 1924 a man had a vision. Ralph C. Smedley founded Toastmasters International in Santa Ana, California. When I joined Toastmasters in Barcelona 2005, I realized that my former conviction had been nothing but a myth. Public speaking is a skill, a technique, a tool. Everyone can train it, everyone can become better at it, everyone can fall in love with it. Public speaking is for EVERYONE.