There’s no shortage of public speaking advice on the internet—but many tips are irrelevant and unhelpful, public speaking coach Rhett Power writes for Inc. magazine.
For example: You’ve probably been advised to “picture the audience in their underwear.” But will that image actually boost your confidence? The answer is no. Power explains how to let go of outdated public speaking tips and take your presentation into the 21st century.
Myth 1: You can calm your nerves
Many professionals feel jitters when they approach the podium. But anxiety is an unconscious reaction you often can’t control, writes Power. Trying to calm your nerves is counterproductive.
What to do instead: Behavioral science research suggests that nervous speakers shouldn’t try to block out their feelings—but should tell themselves that what they’re feeling is excitement. It’s much easier to reframe your experience than to make your hands stop sweating, argues Power.
Myth 2: There’s such a thing as practicing too much
You can’t over-rehearse a presentation—but you can overthink it. It’s easy to get distracted by your worries mid-talk. When you freeze up on stage, you’re probably distracted, says Sian Beilock, a psychologist and current president of Barnard College.
What to do instead: Go on auto-pilot for part of your presentation. If you sound natural, your audience will feel more engaged, argues Power. And “if you notice that you are starting to overthink, try… focusing on the three key points you want to get across to your audience,” recommends Beilock.
Myth 3: Mimic your public speaking heroes
The pros can offer helpful presentation tips. But if you try to emulate Steve Jobs word-for-word, you lose your unique voice, writes Power.
What to do instead: Experiment with different elements of your favorite speakers’ style. To stand out, you need to find your unique voice and presentation style, writes Power. “Once you know your style and embrace it, you connect with your audience,” argues Jason Teteak, an international public speaking coach and TEDx speaker.
Be a better public speaker
During a presentation, leaders only have a few seconds to win—or lose—the trust of their audience.
Whether you're presenting to a room of senior leaders or first-year students, it can be difficult to capture—and keep—your audience's attention.