Bad Advice.

People give a ton of bad public speaking advice. I’m sure it’s well-intentioned, but it’s counter-productive.

Here is some of my favorite bad advice:

  • Practice in a mirror
  • Clasp your hands behind your back
  • When you walk around it keeps the audience interested
  • Look over their heads if you’re too nervous to make eye contact
  • Be confident/Don’t be nervous

The advice-givers mean well, but all of these tips backfire. Here’s what I suggest instead:

Practice in a mirror:  Video yourself practicing. Looking in the mirror is distracting and doesn’t allow you the objective distance to assess your performance.

Clasp your hands behind your back: Keep your hands loosely clasped in front of you, available to use for gesturing, or down by your sides. 

When you walk around it keeps the audience interested: Keep the audience interested by being interesting. Create your content with them in mind instead of yourself.

Look over their heads if you’re too nervous to make eye contact: People can tell if you’re looking them in the eye or not. Practice making real eye contact. Hold it for a thought or sentence, then shift to another segment of the audience.

Be confident/Don’t be nervous: This is awful advice. I know why people say it; they’re trying to give you a pep talk to tell you it’s all going to be okay.  But here’s the thing—it’s completely natural to be nervous. If you notice your heart rate elevating and your palms sweating, acknowledge it. “I’m nervous. That makes sense. This is a big deal and I want to do a good job. I know I’ve practiced, though, and I’ll do some breathing exercises to make sure I’m ready.”

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