3 Myths About Public Speaking

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n my line of work I run into a million and one opinions, myths, and untruths. To understand why you have to look at the nature of the subject:

  • Is public speaking mysterious? Check
  • Is public speaking a subjective topic? Check
  • Are many people afraid of public speaking? Check
  • Is public speaking grossly misunderstood? Check

When you have a subject that manages to be mysterious, subjective, fear inducing, and misunderstood these things tend to happen. Fortunately, I’m here to right those wrongs and put 3 common myths to bed for you.

1 – YOU are the Focus

This statement is a flat out lie. The speech is never about you. If it was there would only be 3 people in attendance:

  1. You
  2. Your Wife
  3. Your retired neighbor

People open their ears and listen to you because you have something of value to offer them. Our world is very selfish, face-paced, winner take all environment. People aren’t going to show (or shut) up to hear you speak if there are no benefits. Many inexperienced speakers make the mistake of scaring themselves silly thinking they must be the focal point of the presentation. In actuality there are only 2 ways for this to happen:

  1. You are an incredibly bad speaker (5%)
  2. You are an incredible speaker (5%)

If you are part of that other 90% then you honestly have nothing to fear. The odds are in your favor.

2 – You Must be the Know it all Expert On Your Topic

Another rookie mistake is thinking that you must be the know it all expert to present. You should speak from a solid knowledge base in order to feel comfortable. Don’t burden yourself with the expectation that you will know everything. You’re setting yourself up for failure if you do.

Last week I was giving a seminar to the Executive Board of the National Action Network. One of the participants was incredibly feisty and argumentative. She jumped down my throat when I mentioned that it wasn’t feasible to know everything about a specific topic. To prove a point I purposefully asked her about a recent disagreement between rapper Lil’ Wayne and Al Sharpton. Her face went blank. She looked around the room as her colleagues screamed out different answers to my question. Before they could blurt out the answer I quieted them and returned to her.

“Do you know the answer to my question?” I asked.

“Honestly, I have no idea who you’re talking about. I thought this Wayne character was a mayor or governor or something” she replied. A look of disappointment drowned out her facial features.

I turned to her and said, “Remember this. The words I don’t know are your friend. It’s smart to admit that you don’t know the answer to a question. It allows you to save face and reply to the question later. If you lie or try and make something up you lose credibility with each passing word.”

Repeat after me…I don’t know but I can find out. Those words will save you much pain.

3 – People Will Ridicule You Afterward

Remember what I said earlier about being the center of attention? It applies to this myth as well. If you’re giving a presentation and its going bad then consider this.Most people would prefer not to stand in front of a crowd so they sympathize with and support you. I’ve seen speakers get a boost from the audience mid speech because they appeared to lose control of the situation. The audience wants you to succeed.

I’ve experienced about 100 speeches in the last few years. I’ve heard 2 or 3 people with extremely negative feedback with regards to a speech. 3 out of 100 (3%) is a number I can live with. The likelihood doesn’t substantiate the myth.


Many myths exist about the wonderful world of public speaking. Those myths are derived from a lack of experience and practice. In today’s article I focused specifically on 3 of them:

  1. You are not the focus of the speech.
  2. You don’t have to be a know it all expert to make a presentation.
  3. People will not ridicule you afterward.

I’ve disproved all of these myths in one fell swoop. Remember, you are NOT the focus of the speech, you do not have to be the know it all, and people will not ridicule you after a presentation. Stop listening to the myths and drink some truth serum. It tastes good.


Marcus Smith is a creative force in the public speaking world who strives to meet the needs of each and every client. His experience as the Toastmasters President at a fortune 15 company will prove invaluable to you.

Visit his site at www.marcusasmith.com for more information

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