Speaking Tips: 3 myths that hold you back

You may find yourself held back by these common myths. Each of these applies to any type of speaking, as well as speaking in Toastmasters. Read on, and learn how to identify and conquer these speaking flaws:

Error #1: Every speech has to be different.
– In professional or business settings, you wouldn’t want to give the same speech to the same audience over and over, but when the audience changes, you can use material that was developed for another audience. All you need to do is know your audience and make the small tweaks where you need to.
– In Toastmasters, this misconception comes from an erroneous assumption that you can’t take credit for the same speech more than once. Change that thinking! Don’t “take credit” for your speech…earn credit for it. Are you wondering what the difference is? Say you are wanting to practice a speech for a big presentation you have to do at work on the Johnson Account (or whatever). You can work on the Competent Communication (CC) manual speech project on Vocal Variety, give your speech and receive some useful tips to improve. Next, take those improvements and tighten it up. Go to the project on Using Visual Aides and practice it again. Now you are better prepared for that work assignment! Note: you don’t have to stop at two times, practice again if you need to.

Error #2: All of your material must be original.
– Clearly it’s a bad idea to plagiarize the work of others. However, if you credit them and include what you’ve learned from experts in your presentation you can add to your credibility and improve the audience’s condition at the same time. Telling the audience how using that other expert’s advice made a difference for you can help them follow a similar path to success.
– In Toastmasters, there are some scripted programs designed to help members succeed with common speaking and leadership topics such as Goal Setting and Planning, Evaluate to Motivate, and Creating an Opening. I once asked a fellow member about giving a speech on Goal Setting. His reply, “I don’t need to do one of those modules right now Rob, I need to give a speech.” I replied “Joe, just give a speech on Goal Setting, you can reference your own experience as well as the module and other sources in your own speech.” This took a bit of back and forth to get through, because of the misunderstanding that he though to talk about one of those topics, you had to use the module. It’s not true, and like any source you just need to cite what you use when you speak. If, however, you want to read the script as designed, then of course that is not a manual speech, but how you present it as a module.

Error #3: Saying you have a plan means you have a plan.
– In Seth Godin’s book Small is the New Big, he talks about working for an Internet company during a period when they were very successful marketing to advertisers. He looked forward to working there because he thought their techniques must be out of this world, with the obscene revenues they were pulling in. He then recounted the first sales call he went on with them. To paraphrase, the presentation was among the worst he’d ever encountered, yet the customer wrote a really big check. The point? You may have a product or idea that is so wonderful that your lack of preparation couldn’t possibly screw it up.  Guess what? Even if you’re right, you soon won’t be.
– In Toastmasters I see some individuals who give manual speeches, but never seem to have the manuals, or turn in the awards. I’ve heard a variety of “not chasing awards” excuses. I’ve also watched their slower growth as a result.

To be honest, I could probably write a “Top Ten” or “Top Twenty for 2010” post on many other speaking myths out there. These are just three that I’ve seen and heard most recently. The short of it is, stop looking for “no”. It’s easy to come up with excuses to stagnate and watch crap on teevee. 

If it’s in your head that you need to become a more accomplished communicator, leader, and networker (is that a word?) then move past the excuses and do what you need to do. If you are not in Toastmasters, obviously I’m going to suggest that you join. This is the place to practice and improve, and to move beyond all of the myths to become the best speaker you can be.

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