Earlier today an official in Texas took offense to someone using the term “black hole” to describe something negative. Later on, this same official also took offense to the fact that that Angel Food Cake (which the term “angel” has a positive connation) is white and Devil’s Food Cake (“Devil” having a negative connotation) is brown. I’m pretty sure based on the context that the phrase “black hole” was used (he was describing a local government office as place where things go in and never come back out) that the speaker wasn’t making a racist remark. However, whether we like it or not, as speakers and communicators, we may from time to time say something that is perceived in a completely different light than what we intended.
I’ve met a number of writers in recent months that have asked me how hard it is to transition their writing to speeches. I was surprised because it’s almost like there’s this perception that being a good speaker and a good writer are mutually exclusive. They think of it like baseball – where good pitchers are rarely good hitters in the major leagues because they focus on one particular skill. So I explain that it’s the complete opposite – writers can make great speakers because the skills necessary to be successful in both endeavors are very similar.
If you’re interested in public speaking, then Rich Hopkins is someone to watch. Rich has been involved with Toastmasters International for over seven years, started his own speaking business and will be competing in the World Championship of Public Speaking for the second time next month – Rich placed 3rd in the world in 2006.
If the mere thought of having to give a speech makes you cringe, chances are that you’re not terribly enthusiastic when it’s time to prepare. However, even the most eager presenters can find themselves overwhelmed when getting ready for their big talk. Regardless of where you fall in, it’s important to not fall into some of the common traps that people are prone to when it’s time to prepare a speech. So here are three of the most common, yet avoidable, mistakes that you should watch out for when preparing your speech:
Mistake 1: Waiting until the last possible minute to prepare:
Although the only way to truly overcome your fear of public speaking is to get up and speak, there are some things you can do right now to improve your public speaking skills. Half of the battle is to simply be aware that public speaking is an art form and there is much to it than simply standing up in front of a crowd and speaking. You need to develop a trained eye (and ear) – which is relatively easy to do (think about when your shopping for a new car, you tend to notice more of the cars your interested in on the road).
Whether you’re a new speaker or an experienced speaker trying to expand your offerings, you’ve probably found yourself in a situation where you’ve been debating whether or not a speech topic will work for you. This is especially common for folks in Toastmasters where you’re given a speech project and you need to choose a topic and create a speech around that project. I’ve even had it happen to me in recent years where groups have asked me to speak to them because they liked my speaking style, but weren’t interested in the topics I typically speak on (communication skills). This can be an exciting opportunity, but if you’re not careful in selecting a topic, you might find yourself stressed out while preparing your talk – or even worse, end up delivering a talk that is lower in quality than your other talks.
Whenever the topic of public speaking comes up in conversation, I’m often treated to at least one story about the fear of public speaking and asked about what I think is the best cure for this fear. I explain that I’ve seen numerous “systems” ranging from e-books to hypnotic audio programs to DVDs, all of which promise to help you overcome your fear of public speaking. I’m then asked which one I recommend and I reply “none.” There is only one way to overcome your fear of public speaking and there are no books, DVDs, CDs or other electronic resources that will help alleviate that fear.