I was a member of Toastmasters for five years. A global organization that assists people in developing their communication skills. I was part of a fantastic, supportive club that helped me immensely. I became a mentor, and the more I worked with other members, the more I learned how to be a better speaker. I became aware of many beliefs people held when it came to tackling public speaking. Dispelling these myths led to removing barriers we all put up when trying to improve ourselves.
The biggest misnomer is confident public speakers never get nervous. Yes, we would all love to be able to get up in front of a room full of people and feel comfortable without any anxiety. Good luck with that. The truth is, most presenters get butterflies no matter how many times we give a presentation. It's how we frame that anxiousness in our minds. The advice I got was to feel excited about sharing my talk. Let the energy pump me up instead of making me doubt myself. It's that anticipation of a rollercoaster ride, and I want to enjoy it. When we take the time to practice and prepare, there's no reason to believe our talk will fail.
Another myth is the belief that you need to be somebody else. A character that you create to entertain an audience. When we share our stories, our experiences, and our perceptions, we have to be ourselves. If not, we risk coming across as disingenuous. When we speak authentically, we establish trust with our audience. Our thoughts and ideas will have a more significant impact as we connect with our listeners.
I've worked with people who were concerned that they weren't expressive or outgoing enough to capture a group's attention. I explained that their speech was compelling and thought-provoking. The dynamics in their voice and tone came through naturally as well as their body language as they spoke. Bells and whistles are exciting, but if there's nothing worthwhile in the information, it will fall flat. Some of the best story-telling I've heard was delivered with casual simplicity.
Many people believe that every single line of a presentation must be memorized, or the speech will fall apart. I've watched speakers look up at the ceiling or down towards the floor as they try to remember their next line. If you've done your homework and prepared your speech, you shouldn't worry about memorizing every word you wrote. Your talk should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. For your lecture to flow, know how you'll transition from one point to another. You are the expert and should know your material inside and out. Watch your audience and see how engaged they are. You may find that a story or analogy would help explain your perspective better than you initially prepared. Staying in the moment and taking cues from your listeners will give you the results you want from your talk.
I believe with time, effort, and practice, anyone can improve their communication skills. It's easy to think that we have to look or be a particular way to be an impressive speaker, but that's not the reality. Telling our stories is how we all learn and grow our humanity. It's how we develop compassion and empathy for each other. Our challenges taught us life lessons. You never know who may need to hear your message to get them through a tough time. Hope and inspiration keep us striving to want to do better in our life. The only question I have is, what will you share today?