The Worst Advice Speakers Get … And What They Should Be Said
Speakers get nervous. It’s just natural. For most people, it’s an opportunity on an important stage to make a good impression – or not! Sympathetic supporters try to help with what they think is good advice. Sometimes it is; but often it is not. In fact, some of the worst advice I’ve ever heard has been given to speakers by friends, family, and colleagues.
“Don’t be nervous … you’ll be great.”
When has telling people not to be nervous made them less nervous? It’s like telling someone not to feel horny. You can’t just turn these sensations on and off. And telling someone suffering from stage fright that they will be great is either pointless or just unheard of.
It’s terrible advice because most people are already saying to themselves, “You shouldn’t be so nervous.” It just reinforces your feeling of wrongdoing. They don’t just feel nervous; They feel guilty for feeling this way! What a sure way to erode self-confidence.
Instead, they should be told that nervousness is normal. Some of the world’s most famous artists still have debilitating performance anxiety. Once they accept the fact that this is just the body’s natural reaction to a high stress scenario, they can look for ways to mitigate the effects. This could be a slow deep breath, stepping out of your presentation (metaphorically and / or literally), listening to your favorite music, it’s very individual.
“Take it easy.”
Just like “Don’t be nervous.” Wasted words.
Instead, acknowledge the adrenaline rush and help turn it from negative energy into positive emotion by reassuring them how much the audience expects their presentation.
“Keep changing your presentation so that it is always interesting to you.”
Compare your speech to a tour. You are the tour guide, the places you visit constitute your content, and your audience is the group of tourists. Imagine that you are a tourist in that group and the guide says, “Welcome to X. This is my first time here. The other places get pretty boring after a while.”
Your interest and satisfaction should be based on your ability to interest the audience, not on caring for yourself. And to give your audience the most interesting experience, you need to know your content well, especially its key phrases, facts, and stories.
Instead, they should be told, “You’ve done this before, so you know what works. Just give them that.”
“Imagine them naked.”
It has been around for eons. And it has always been silly advice. The likely result is that you will find it distracting, distracting, or disturbing!
Instead, the advice should be to place two or three people in the audience (ideally seated in different areas) who seem interested. Make eye contact with these people. Ignore those with negative body language. In a room of 20 or more there will always be someone who does not want to be there (unless you are a celebrity!) Not your problem. Just focus on the ones who want to be there.
“Everything you say must be new to them.”
This creates a mindset in which a speaker feels guilty if he says something that audience members have heard before. Then they apologize by presenting their content with lines like:
- “Sorry if you’ve heard this before …”
- “You may have seen this already; and if so, I apologize.”
Instead, they should be told, “It doesn’t matter if some of them may have heard of it before. Many will not have and will use it in its own original context.” The reality is that there is no way you can know everything that audience members have heard before, so setting yourself up for an ‘originality test’ like this is absurd.
Speakers recall: all advice has good intentions; but that doesn’t make it good. And if you are trying to help a speaker; Be cautious with your advice.