Is your desire to be a good speaker getting in your way? Here's how to avoid the trap of creating a 'perfect' presentation instead of an effective one!
When it comes to your next important presentation, are you hoping to be a perfect speaker?
Wouldn't it be better to get your listeners to think, feel, or act the way you want them to? Or to put that another way: Isn't it worth genuinely trying to accomplish your purpose with an audience, rather than setting off a few fireworks?
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Even though fear of public speaking may make you anxious, trying to be perfect with your speech is guaranteed to get you into trouble. If nothing else, it's keeping your focus where it can't be—on your performance, rather than on what the audience is getting out of it.
And when that occurs, you're working at cross purposes to the whole idea of speaking in public. Let's look at what happens when your desire to be perfect leaves you defenseless concerning your interaction with a group you're speaking to.
What Your Job Is in Talking to an Audience
This desire to create a foolproof presentation is called perfectionizing—and contrary to what you might think, it typically doesn't come from a desire to bring the house down. It's more like trying to keep the ceiling from falling on your own head.
That is, it's usually a defense arising from a fear of facing an audience. The thinking that goes along with this defensive posture goes something like this: "If I create a perfect presentation, one that covers every eventuality, then nothing can go wrong. I won't have to worry about how I'm not very good at this, because my presentation will take care of everything!"
The problem here, of course, is that such thinking negates the nature of public speaking itself. There's something special—an actor would say 'magical'—about performing for an audience in real time, even though it's a high-wire act without a net. But the electricity that leaps from performer to audience, and back again, means that something truly remarkable can happen in terms of the relationship between speaker and audience. Your job, then, is to reach your listeners, and be touched by them in turn. That simply can't happen if you're living in a house of cards or crystal palace (your 'perfect presentation') that will collapse or shatter the instant something actually happens!
How to Prepare for an Important Presentation
So what's the solution that gets you ready for your important talk, arms you against unexpected events, and keeps you present to interact with the audience?
The answer doesn't lie in any particular step in preparation, but in a change to your point of view. It might be the most natural thing in the world to be concerned about how well you do in a speech. But paradoxically, actually forgetting yourself and placing your audience at the center of things, is the step that will allow you to deliver an excellent performance.
The truth is, there really isn't anything to fear concerning what may unfold, as long as you honestly give listeners what you think they need. That's your job as a speaker—not looking good. You can't give an audience more than who you are and what you know. And you really shouldn't worry about not being good enough. You were tasked with giving this talk (or you chose to do so) because you're the one person in the world who can give it! No one else, no matter how skilled as a speaker they are, can be you. As Oscar Wilde said, you're already taken.
Give your focus and full attention to connecting with listeners and giving them what you have. After all, it's called "giving a speech"—so isn't what you're offering a gift? If you disappear in the process (in terms of your own focus and attention), well, you couldn't ask for anything better.
You won't be perfect, but you'll be in the moment and present for your audience, which is all they wanted in the first place. Your house of cards presentation won't protect you, and really, you shouldn't want it to in the first place. Instead, roll up your sleeves, and get in there and mix it up. Whatever happens will be honest and real, and will probably be well worth listening to.
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