“The KEY to being a good speaker” Kurt told me, “Is to feel comfortable in who you are – to feel comfortable in front of a group. I have been through years of Toastmasters and read Dale Carnegie – that is what I learned”.
A few moments later, Kurt was introduced as our speaker. He sat in his chair at the front of the room and he looked very comfortable. He rambled for about 20 minutes without really saying anything of substance. He did not address the topic that was promised, he bounced from idea to idea, and no one in the room looked enthralled. But Kurt was comfortable.
Kurt confused his comfort and lack of nervousness with being effective. A speaker should have a goal, or a reason for speaking. At the end of the talk, there is something the speaker wants the audience to know or do.
If Kurt’s goal was to impress the audience that he was comfortable speaking in public, he succeeded. If he wanted us to know that he was a good speaker, that he was competent in his work, that his company was worthy of our business, or that we should follow his advice, he failed wonderfully.
An effective speaker feels comfortable because they know they have a strong presentation: a well crafted message that is expertly delivered. They know they have a reasonable chance of changing attitudes and behaviors with the audience.
As a speaker, when you know your topic, have clear goals for your talk, excellent visual aids, and are well practiced, you will feel more comfortable in front of an audience. When a speaker believes lack of nervousness alone makes them a good presenter, they are suffering from Kurt’s syndrome: confusing personal comfort with effective speaking. The speaker’s level of nervousness has little to do with their ability to motivate an audience to take new action.
Kurt is good at his job and he works for a very reputable company. I hope one day he learns the benefits of speaking well. He will be seen as credible, competent and his business will thrive.
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This speaking tip is one in a series provided to you by iSpeakEASY. Call for information on individual coaching or group training.