When it comes to public speaking, those who have the most difficulty permitting themselves to deliver a dynamic presentation are those of the Type A personality. Characterized by an intense drive for perfection, the Type A individual does not allow for mistakes. And, that is the crux of the problem.
Is it possible to achieve ‘perfection’ in a live performance? Who is to say it is perfect? Perfection is subjective in this type of venue. What I may see as perfect, someone else may not. For the Type A personality, this obsession is what often leads to failure – and for that individual, the results are discontentedness in which he/she focuses only on the negative aspects.
Last century witnessed one of the greatest pianists of all times, Arthur Rubenstein. Known for making mistakes in his concerts and even in his recordings, Rubenstein was not concerned with a few missing notes or passages that had blemishes. According to biographer, Harold Schonberg, Rubenstein “was daring, he took chances, and if a few notes suffered en route that was unimportant….when he was on the concert stage one felt as though the piano itself was welded to his body. Musician and instrument were one.”
The difference between Rubenstein and many other technically proficient pianists was that the former made music. In an interview with Schonberg in 1964, the pianist said, “I will take a chance. There has to be an element of daring in great music-making. These younger ones, they are too cautious. They take the music out of their pockets instead of out of their hearts.”
No better statement could be made about public speaking as well. Too often the presenter takes the notes from his/her pocket and proceeds to deliver a dry rote presentation, which may be perfect in the sense that every word is well planned and well scripted but there is no heart in the delivery. No passion, no enthusiasm, no emotion. Part of the lackluster presentation is this obsession with perfection coupled with nervousness.
When the delivery exhibits passion and a mistake or two is made, it matters not. Mistakes are made constantly by great performers, athletes, and public speakers as well. If you don’t believe me, just listen to the news on any given day, at any given time, by any given radio or TV station. If the greats in broadcasting, stage acting, performing, sports, or public speaking were to allow an occasional mistake to consume them, we would have no broadcasters, actors, performers, professional athletes, or public speakers to entertain or inform us.
That does not mean a presentation replete with errors however. When there is an abundance of mistakes, then you are not well prepared. You must practice your script so that you are comfortable with and know your material. And that means practicing it out loud. Record yourself and study the playback so that you can hear what you are doing. If you can record yourself by means of video, by all means do so: you will then be able to see your delivery as well as hear it.
It is only after repeated practice or rehearsal that you are ready to deliver your speech or your presentation. In this respect, public speaking is akin to music lessons, rehearsals on a stage for the musicians or actors, or the playing of sports, none of which you will accomplish well without practice.
Had Rubenstein focused only on the technical skill of his delivery, his music would never have been as great. So instead of focusing on the possibility of an error, focus on knowing your material so that you can speak from your heart, allowing your emotion not only to be heard in your voice but also seen in your facial expression and body language.
If this pianist, considered by some to be the greatest of the 20th century, could accept and acknowledge his mistakes, do you not think you can do the same?
The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels offers private, corporate and group workshops in voice and presentation skills as well as Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. Visit Voice DynamicYour Least Developed Tool! and watch Nancy as she describes