You’ve probably heard these more than once; and you might even believe at least one of them. But it just doesn’t have to be that way!
3) You have to choreograph what your hands will do
So many people don’t know what to do with their hands! They’re afraid that they’ll take on a life of their own and totally embarrass them when they get up to speak!
The best thing is to just hang them naturally by your side. If you bring them up to gesture, then bring them down again. See if you can pay attention to what your hands do when you’re talking to a friend. You’ll find you use them naturally to gesture. Speaking in public it’s the same thing – use them naturally to gesture, and when you’re done, lower them to your sides.
Things not to do: clasp them in front of you or in back of you. Hook your fingers in your belt loops or put your hands in a pocket. Stick your thumbs out. Twirl your hair or a scarf. Etc. Etc.
One exception to normal gesturing: If you’re forced to stand behind a lectern, you’ll need to make all of your “natural” gestures a lot higher so people can see what you’re doing. In that case, think Evita!
2) You need to have everything memorized
Actually, a memorized (or read) presentation can be deadly to your audience. You want to know the order of things you’re going to say, and you want to know how you’re going to say certain points for maximum impact. But listeners can always tell when something is memorized – it doesn’t come across as genuine. If you’re not sure if you’ll know what to say next, then put down short prompts on a note card. Or have a visual “shape” in your thought about how your talk goes and follow that shape. There are many ways to know where you’re going next. But in most cases your talk should be a description of what you already know really well. After all, if someone asked you what your living room is like, you wouldn’t have to memorize it. You would just describe it for them. That’s what you’re doing in your talk.
3) Public speaking is scary
This one has taken on a life of its own! People hear that public speaking is scary, so they make it so for themselves. But is it really? You talk to other people all the time in the course of your day. You share ideas with clients. You motivate your kids. You discuss options for action with your partner. You shout in disgust at the radio. In other words, you’re communicating all day long. Public speaking is just a variety of what you’re already doing. The only way it’s scary is if you’re thinking about yourself instead of your audience. Think about them and what they need and you’re not thinking about yourself. And if you’re not thinking about yourself when you speak, it can’t be scary. And when you can see the change taking place in your audience right as you speak, it’s one of the most rewarding feelings you can have!
So, if you’re stymied by any of these myths and want to bust them, please contact me for help!