The Art of Speaking  

Busting myths about public speaking

Four public speaking myths

YouTube/Wade Paterson

We’ve all heard various pieces of advice about public speaking, but how many of these tips and tricks are actually myths?

This month, I will debunk four falsehoods about public speaking, and explain why these common beliefs are untrue.

Getting nervous is bad

I’ve focused on improving my public speaking skills for the past decade, and I still get nervous each time I deliver a presentation. I consider that a good thing.

Oddly enough, the few times I haven’t gotten nervous before stepping in front of an audience have typically gone much worse than the times when nerves were present. I recently had a conversation with a public speaker who I admire, and he told me that he gets nervous because he cares.

If you’re able to tweak your mindset to believe nerves are a good thing, it’s going to help give you gain confidence before you step on stage.

As a side note, sometimes there are physical side effects that accompany nerves. Shaky hands, a dry mouth and sweaty palms are all common physical responses to public speaking. After you’ve spoken in front of an audience a few times, you’ll likely identify how your body reacts, and then you can take steps to be prepared for these reactions in the future. (For example: If your mouth gets dry, you can bring water on stage with you. If your hand is shaking, you could avoid carrying a single piece of paper and instead carry something heavier, which will make the shaking seem less obvious.)

You can “wing it”

For some reason we’ve romanticized this idea of getting up in front of an audience with no preparation or practice at all, and delivering an incredible speech.

While it’s true there are some “unicorn” individuals out there who have an ability to wing it, I would argue those people make up less than 5% of the population. I would also argue that everyone (even those who can wing it) would have a better speech if they practiced.

If you think about anyone who has become successful in their line of work, practice is often a common theme. Even the most talented athletes, who have natural abilities, work endlessly on their skills to improve, and we should treat public speaking the same way.

The underwear advice

“Just picture your audience in their underwear.”

I’m not sure where this bad piece of public speaking advice originated from (and ChatGPT wasn’t certain either).

My AI friend suggested it may have come about in the 20th century, along with the rise of self-help and personal development literature that became popular during the 1900s.

Perhaps the idea was introduced to give you psychological power. For example, picturing the audience in a vulnerable situation when you are feeling nervous may somehow restore confidence. But in reality, there are many reasons why this strategy seems like a bad idea.

Beyond the fact it’s creepy, remember you have enough to worry about when you’re standing on stage in front of an audience. Public speakers don’t usually have the capacity to allow their minds to wander and focus on other things. So instead of trying to imagine what your audience might look like in their underwear, you’re much better off to simply practice your speech.

You should write out your full speech

It’s incredibly common for most people to begin the speech planning process by writing out their full speech word-for-word. While it makes sense to write down notes early in the speech planning process, I think you’re better off to plan your speech in general themes rather than writing everything down word-for-word.

When you write out a speech verbatim, it’s tempting to rely heavily on notes when we deliver the speech. The problem with reading words off of a piece of paper is that it usually limits body language and vocal variety.

By planning a speech out in themes or categories, you can use far fewer notes (instead, subtle prompts that will remind you what to say next) and focus on engaging the audience with your body language and vocal variety.

If you’re thinking about joining Toastmasters to improve your public speaking skills, our Kelowna AM Toastmasters Club is always looking for new members here.

If you’re interested in learning more about Impactful Communication, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Public speaking tips for introverts

Courage to speak publicly

YouTube /Wade Paterson

I consider myself to be an introverted person.

That may seem odd considering my YouTube channel and monthly Castanet column is dedicated to encouraging people to speak confidently in front of large groups of people. But the reality is, I’m mentally drained after delivering a presentation.

That doesn’t mean I don’t love public speaking (I do), but this month I wanted to share a few tips for my fellow introverts who may struggle with finding the energy to speak confidently in public.

Introverts need to practice

To be clear, everyone needs to practice public speaking, but introverts really, really need to practice.

The more you practice, the more familiar you will be with your content. The more familiar you are with your content, the less likely you are to freeze in front of your audience or forget what you’re supposed to be talking about. If you’re introverted, you’re probably already worrying about a lot of things when you’re on stage; therefore, your content shouldn’t be one more thing to add to the list.

The first few times I spoke on stage, the entire experience was a blur and it was difficult to recall details of what happened during the presentation. I was so focused on what I needed to say, I wasn’t able to take in the moment and observe the audience’s interactions. What has happened over time is that the more the content has become second-nature, the easier it has been to get comfortable and recognize what is happening in the room while speaking.

The best way to become aware on stage and reduce anxiety around speaking is to practice.

Introverts need to intentionally bring energy

A high energy presentation is something that comes naturally for extroverts, but introverted people need to be intentional about deliberately elevating their energy.

If you are soft-spoken, you need to dial up the volume. If you don’t usually have a smile on your face, you need to find that smile for the stage. If you usually have your hands in your pockets, you need to pull them out and use them to incorporate body language in your speech.

Audience attention spans are short these days, so if you want your audience to stay engaged and focused on the message you are delivering, you need to capture their attention. The best way to do this is by elevating your energy and confidence.

Introverts need to ditch their notes

If an introverted person is asked to give a presentation, he/she is most likely to feel comfortable behind a lectern with their full speech written out word-for-word on a piece of paper. But, as mentioned in the previous tip, the problem with hiding behind a podium is that it limits your body language.

The problem with reading notes verbatim is that it limits your vocal variety. Without vocal variety or body language, it’s going to be very difficult to keep the attention of your audience.

One fear some people have about ditching their notes is that they may forget something they were hoping to talk about. While that’s a valid concern, it’s important to remember that your audience never knew what you were planning to talk about in the first place, so you can deliver a presentation and forget to mention something, but the audience won’t be upset because they had no expectations of the specific things you’d be saying in your speech.

Introverts shouldn’t let a label define them

Being introverted doesn’t mean you can’t be a great public speaker. In fact, some of the world’s best presenters would consider themselves to be introverts.

The challenge is that some aspects of public speaking (body language, vocal tone, etc) may be more of a challenge for us introverts than it is for our extroverted friends. But with practice and repetition we can overcome these challenges and deliver attention-grabbing presentations while staying true to our authentic personalities.

And, if you (like me) become drained after delivering these presentations, then simply plan for a strategically-scheduled post-speech nap to recharge your batteries.

I hope these tips for introverts are helpful.

If you’re thinking about joining Toastmasters to improve your public speaking skills, our Kelowna AM Toastmasters Club is always looking for new members.

If you’re interested in learning more about Impactful Communication, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Get over your fear of recording video content

Communicating with video

YouTube /Wade Paterson

Let’s pretend you need to change the battery in your vehicle, but you’ve never done it before and you’re not exactly mechanically inclined.

You have two options for how you learn to accomplish the task. Either you can dig through your car manual and try to find the relevant instructions, or you can watch a two-minute YouTube video. Which option would you choose?

While some may opt for the written manual, my guess is that at least 80 per cent of people would choose to watch the YouTube video.

Whether we’re looking to be educated or entertained, video content is often the medium of choice; therefore, if we’re looking to engage our audience for personal or professional reasons, we should focus our attention on producing video content.

But there’s a challenge. Speaking in front of a camera lens and recording video content is a scary and intimidating process for many people.

In this month’s column and the accompanying video, I provide a few tips to help you build your confidence before hitting the record button.

Don’t let the way you look/sound bother you

One of the biggest hindrances that stops people from producing video content is that they hate the way they look or sound when they watch it back.

The first thing to remember is that this is normal. I’ve been creating YouTube content for several years, and it’s often cringy to go back and watch my old videos. But remember that your audience doesn’t think of it that way.

Your friends or clients already know what you look and sound like and they’ll simply be appreciative of the fact you’re providing helpful content in a medium they enjoy consuming.

You don’t have to post every video

A friend of mine who got over his own fear of shooting video content shared an awesome tip with me that I hadn’t thought of previously—you don’t have to post every video you shoot.

In order to build the habit of shooting video content, he would create videos every day and simply save them to his camera roll. After a couple weeks of doing these, he became more comfortable in front of the camera and decided he might as well share the content he was already going to the work of creating to social media.

If you want to start creating videos, remember that no one is forcing you to upload these videos. The key is to practice shooting the content to get comfortable.

You can edit and splice together

It's very difficult to shoot a video perfectly in one take without making any mistakes. The good news is, you don’t have to.

If you watch my videos closely, there are many jump cuts where I splice together clips and make it flow in the editing process. What this means is that you don’t have to memorize an entire script. Remember a few sentences you want to say, look at the camera and deliver those, then pause, check your notes, and memorize the next few sentences, look at the camera and repeat this process.

Use a sticky note and bullet points

While the third tip is a good one, what if you’re shooting a live video and don’t have the luxury of editing your content?

A subtle sticky note behind the camera can help remind you of the topics you want to address in the video you’re filming. These bullet point reminders will help keep you on track as you deliver the live video content.

With that said, ensure you don’t write down all of your text verbatim and attempt to read it on camera. Your audience will know you’re reading off of a script, and the video won’t feel as genuine.

Smile more than you think you need to

You need to smile!

Most people are so focused on saying the right words when they shoot a video that they forget they need to smile. By not smiling, your video will not feel as inviting or engaging to your audience.

At the top of the sticky note I mentioned inthe previous tip, write “SMILE” in big letters as a constant reminder.
Batch content in a single shoot

Since you have gone to all the effort of setting up your camera, getting your lighting just right and ensuring all of your equipment is set up properly, you might as well shoot more than one video.

I typically will shoot a minimum of four videos every time I record for YouTube. This makes it easier and less of a chore, because, if it’s my goal to post a new video every week, I only have to record content once per month.

If you’re going to take me up on this tip to batch content, ensure you wear different shirts so it looks like you recorded the content on different days.

I hope these tips help you get over your fear of recording video content and are helpful.

If you’re thinking about joining Toastmasters to improve your public speaking skills, our Kelowna AM Toastmasters Club is always looking for new members.

If you’re interested in learning more about Impactful Communication, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Five ways to create a persuasive speech?

Persuading your audience

Facebook /Wade Paterson

The term “persuasion” can sometimes have a negative connotation.

But persuading somebody to do something we truly believe in isn’t a bad thing. For example, in my monthly Castanet columns I attempt to persuade you, the reader, to focus on improving your public speaking and communication skills.

Why? Because I’m convinced effective communication can improve your business and social relationships.
Learning how to persuade one person to do something is a challenge in itself; however, persuading an entire audience to take action is even more difficult.

In this month’s column, I break down five ways to create a powerful speech, with the goal of influencing your audience.

1. Establish credibility
If I’m trying to convince you to buy a boat, but I don’t own a boat myself, you’re likely to be skeptical about my pitch.

Establishing credibility is one of the most important parts of creating a persuasive speech, because your audience is much more likely to take your message seriously if you have the experience to back up your position.

But what if you don’t have experience yet?

While experience plays a major role, you can also establish credibility by doing research and knowing your subject matter inside out. For example, a new member of a volunteer committee may have a suggestion to make, but fears he/she may not be taken seriously due to inexperience. In this case, the best thing this person could do is review minutes from previous meetings and research data to support the suggestion he/she plans to bring forward.

2. Appeal to your audience’s emotions

Going back to the boat example from the first point, if you’re going to convince individuals in an audience to purchase a boat, you’re likely going to have to tap into their emotional side. Here’s an example of how this could be done while delivering a speech:

“I want you to close your eyes and imagine yourself on a warm, sunny afternoon in Kelowna. You and your family step onto your boat, exit the marina, and then speed through Okanagan Lake on the way to your favourite cove. As you glide through the water, the wind blows your hair back and your children are smiling from ear-to-ear. This is what summer in the Okanagan is all about.”

Who doesn’t love the sound of the previous paragraph? We all know boats are expensive to own and require a lot of maintenance… but those concerns can be dealt with later. First, you need to win over your audience by creating a desire for the thing you’re attempting to convince them of doing.

3. Dispel misconceptions

Depending on what you are trying to persuade your audience to do, they may resist your message based on information they heard prior to your speech.

Sticking with the boating example, maybe people have heard the phrase that the two happiest days boat owners have is the day they buy the boat and the day they sell it. In your speech, you may want to address that misconception head-on, and provide your counter-argument.

How do you do this?

You could present survey results or data that shows a high percentage of boat owners are happy they made the decision to purchase a boat 5 years after becoming an owner.

By disarming predictable points of resistance, your audience will be more likely to take your message seriously.

4. Provide “social proof”

“Social proof” is an idea that people are more likely to do something that others — especially those they admire or look up to — have done.

If you’re speaking to a crowd of employees at a company, perhaps you can add an element of persuasion by showing a slide that illustrates how the company CEO is an advocate of your product. Or, if it’s a general audience you’re presenting to, you could consider showcasing celebrities or influential people who embrace the product/service/concept you’re pitching.

5. Create a level of urgency

By ending your presentation with a limited-time offer, you force your audience to embrace your idea or risk facing FOMO (fear of missing out).

The longer your audience waits to take action after your presentation, the more likely they are to get distracted or forget the compelling reason why they were interested in what you had to say in the first place.

Your goal is to get the audience to take action as soon as possible, while your speech is still fresh in their minds.

I hope these five tips help you the next time you have to conduct a sales presentation or convince your audience to donate at a local fundraiser.

If you’re thinking about joining Toastmasters, our Kelowna AM Toastmasters Club is always looking for new members.

If you’re interested in learning more about Impactful Communication, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Wade Paterson is an award-winning Toastmaster who is passionate about Impactful Communication.

His columns and accompanying YouTube videos are focused on helping others become more confident public speakers and communicators.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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