Do you want to be better at speaking in front of an audience? Here’s a simple tip: stop trying to be perfect! That’s the advice of public speaking expert Seymour Segnit.
Segnit, a well-known life coach who helps people overcome their fear of public speaking, says that many people inadvertently sabotage their speeches by setting too high a standard for themselves. In the process, they set themselves up for failure. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to be at your best, Segnit says, But don’t obsess about it.
He is concerned about the cycle of negative thought that develops for people preparing to give a speech. As it is, most people are deeply afraid of speaking in front of a crowd, he says. If they expect their speech to be flawless, they are likely to experience panic when they make some minor gaffe. Of course you’re going to make a mistake! Segnit says, You aren’t perfect! No one is.
Some of the best public speakers of our generation – including Tony Robins and Barak Obama – make speaking mistakes and trip over their words. But they don’t get flustered by these minor gaffes. They simply move on, or they brush it off with a little humor.
Advice? Just be as good as you can and enjoy the ride!
Segnit, whose company CTRN helps people overcome the fear of public speaking, has created a series of video lessons on dealing with speaking anxiety.
“There are lots of great resources out there about public speaking,” he says, “But very few of them deal with the psychological aspects of giving a speech, and that’s what most people are really struggling with.” Among his lessons, he encourages people to visualize a success scenario for the day of their speech.
“Most people dread giving a talk,” he says, “So they wake up in the morning thinking, Oh no! I have to give my speech today. I just know it’s going to go badly.”
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Instead of envisioning a bad result, why not envision a successful speech that you feel great about?
“Why not?” asks Segnit. “The dread you feel is just a made up result for something that hasn’t happened yet. Why not make up a good result instead?”
He encourages people to imagine their entire day up to the point where they finish their speech. “Imagine waking up and looking forward to your speech. Imagine it in detail, and imagine it as if you were experiencing it through your own eyes,” he says, “That’s very important.”
But doesn’t a success scenario mean you are trying to give a perfect speech? Segnit sees no contradiction.
“Successful speeches aren’t perfect, and neither are successful speakers,” he says. “But successful speakers don’t undermine themselves with negativity.”