It’s Ok to Suck at Public Speaking

, , , , ,
public speaking fear

Whether it’s a presentation, a talk, or a wedding toast, stringing together words in front of a sea of faces is terrifying for a lot of people. Millions of people. Probably even you. And me. Definitely me. I hate public speaking.

It’s scary because you might screw it up and be humiliated in front of your audience, whether that’s 10 people or 10,000. It’s scary because, let’s face it, it’s contrived, artificial, and weird. And the big reason: It’s scary because most of us don’t do it enough to get comfortable with it. Practice makes a huge difference.

But here’s the thing: Mastering the art of public speaking is overrated. It’s such a rare event in most people’s careers that the only energy it deserves is indifference. It’s the waterskiing of human speech. If you’re good at it, great for you. But do you feel bad because you are mediocre at waterskiing? I don’t.

In most fields, you can have a successful career while almost never speaking in public. You can have a successful career speaking in public but not being very good at it. You can have a successful career while cowering in the corner, if you’re really, really good at other key aspects of your job.

So stop worrying about how much you suck at public speaking. Which, ironically, is exactly the kind of attitude that could help you get better at it.

Consider comedians. Note their general bearing: They don’t seem nervous, but they also don’t seem super excited. They seem like they’re hanging out with you in the kitchen at a party. TV reporters? They generally seem like they could take or leave an assignment. Auctioneers: Relatively chill, actually. They all seem like they’re just having a conversation — one in which they’re the only ones speaking, but, still, a conversation.

It’s not like we at Forge don’t have public speaking tips. We do! (Listed and linked below.) But honestly: Don’t give this too much of your energy. Treat it like just another chat. Because it is.

Use the “reappraisal” techniqueto channel the adrenaline you feel right before speaking.

Record your speech and critique it. A lot.

Use Dialectical Behavior Therapy to regulate your mood.

Remember that video chat is like your own mini TV show.

And I have a few tips myself. I know it’s not that easy just to be relaxed when giving a speech, so here are a few ways that have helped me seem lower-key than I actually feel:

Say something weird. There is nothing audiences love more than a non sequitur. Find a thing in the room that everyone is aware of, and say the thing you might say if you ran into a friend at a cocktail party. “How do you think you change a light that high up?” “What’s the dog looking at in that painting?” In fact, whatever question a Joe Pesci character might ask while making small talk in a Martin Scorsese movie, ask that. It’s not a joke. But a moment of surprise and delight puts people in a receptive state of mind.

Don’t give a TED Talk (Unless you’re actually giving a TED Talk). That is, don’t pepper your speech with supposedly-off-the-top-of-your-head-but-obviously-rehearsed stories and precisely timed hand gestures. That approach is good for TED. But people aren’t here for a TED talk. They’re here to see you do whatever they’re here to see you do.

Focus on only one person every few seconds as you’re speaking. When you lock eyes, imagine everyone else just not being there. (Switch from person to person, otherwise, one member of the audience is going to get really creeped out.) Treating your speech like a one-on-one conversation will help you emotionally connect to the people you’re speaking with. It will make you feel more relaxed. And then you might even start having fun.

Credit for article – Ross MCCammon Executive Editor, Forge/Medium and author of Works Well With Others https://bit.ly/2N1TWU6