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The 5 Myths of Public Speaking

According to the Merriam Webster 2016 dictionary, public speaking is defined as:

  1. the act or process of making speeches in public
  2. the art of effective oral communication with an audience

Definition 1 defines public speaking as making speeches in public, even though the process of making that speech goes far beyond the stage time, as it involves a lot of background preparation to deliver that speech. Definition 2 defines public speaking as an art, and specifically in oral communication, even though it involves more than just oral communication. it is the entire delivery of the speaker, the stage, lighting, layout, sound system and a whole lot of other items.

This is where the traditional and conventional definition of public speaking does not do justice to delivering a great speech. In this article, I will try to answer some of the common myths surrounding public speaking.

Myth 1: Public Speaking Is About Speaking To A Large Audience.

While delivering a presentation to a large audience may be an ego boost to a speaker, public speaking is not necessarily about the size of the size of the crowd; it could be a one person audience too. As long as you are communicating, it is considered public speaking. “You cannot not communicate” is a saying I would like you to remember at this point.

Myth 2: Public Speaking Is An Art.

It is not just a delicate art and in this article; I will show you “scientific” ways, steps and methods in delivering a speech. Delivering a great speech involves the art and the
science of giving that speech. When we describe something as an art, people get the notion that it is a skill that you either get it, or you don’t. That it is something innate and difficult to learn. What this book aims to achieve is to turn part of that art into something that is teachable, into a science of analyzing what makes great speeches great and impactful.

  • Milton Friedman Speaks - Myths That Conceal Reality
    YouTube Video
    Milton Friedman Speaks - Myths That Conceal Reality

Myth 3: Public Speaking Involves Just Oral Presentation.

From 1967 to 1971, Professor Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, UCLA, conducted numerous studies on face-to-face communication. He discovered that during such communication, the audience would be able to guess the intention of the speaker accurately 55% of the time from his / her physiology, 38% of the time from his / her vocal tonality and 7% of the time from his / her words. What’s significant here is that the exact percentage is immaterial. The vital part is that most face-to-face communication is nonverbal. Therefore, public speaking is not just about what you say, but more importantly, how you say it.

Myth 4: Public Speaking Is First And Foremost About The Content.

Content is significant as it is the skeleton that makes up the speech. We still need to dress the skeleton and content with some delivery skills. Without the skills in delivering the content, the effectiveness of the message may be lost along the way. Remember, it is not what you say, but how you say it.

Myth 5: A Long Speech That Goes For 2 Hours Is More Difficult To Prepare Than A 5 Minute Speech.

To quote a famous line from Mark Twain, “If you want me to talk for 2 hours I can start now, if you want me to speak for 5 minutes I am going to need a week…” It is generally not the longer duration of the speech, the more difficult it is to prepare. If you have all the time you need to deliver your speech, you have a lot of leeway and margin to deliver the main message of your speech. But if you have a limited time to make your point, then it becomes important to make your point in that limited time effectively.

Now that some myths of public speaking have been debunked, I encourage you not to stop here. Keep “sharpening your saw” by reading the other recommended articles on this site. I look forward to that wonderful day in your life when you will become an accomplished public speaker. All the best 🙂

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