The Biggest Mistake Nervous Public Speakers Make

Many of our clients have risen to their current position, at least in part, by preparing diligently for every task.

When they put their presentations together, they labor over their laptops for days, making sure that every word communicates the precise message they want their audiences to remember.

When they finally finish composing their talks, they have a beautifully written presentation that’s certain to wow their crowds.

Right? Well, not so fast.

There’s nothing wrong with preparing for a speech so carefully. In fact, writing it out can help speakers organize their thoughts, edit out less important points, and stumble upon some beautiful phrases they otherwise wouldn’t have discovered.

But too often, they put too much of a premium on the precision of their words—and not nearly enough on the connection they’re building with their audiences. 

As a result, their quest for linguistic perfection will come at the steep cost of establishing a productive rapport with those they’re trying to persuade.

I’ll often ask them a question: What’s more important to you? Delivering every word with precision or forging a genuine connection that moves, influences, or educates your audience?

Almost everyone picks the latter. Suddenly, their over-emphasis on precision doesn’t make sense. (To be clear, I’m not talking about accuracy here—I assume you’ll be accurate. I’m talking about the specific words you come up with in the moment to express your thoughts.)

Here’s an analogy to a radio mixing board. Let’s say that one switch on the mixing board is the precision of your words, and that it’s cranked up to a 9. But, as a result of trying to sound perfect—perhaps by reading verbatim from a script—your “audience connection” switch is only set at a 5. Does that really make sense?

I’d rather see a speaker who gets a “7” on their words but an “8” on audience connection—and so do most members of your audience.

If your tendency is to try to deliver your words perfectly, try an experiment before your next presentation. Readjust your mixing board. Consider placing an equal or greater premium on the connection you forge with your audience instead. And watch as your audience warms up to you and embraces your ideas more quickly.