Public Speaking Super Powers Podcast: Season 4, Episode 1
Perfectionism can stop you from getting started in public speaking. But it can do way more than that, as well. In this episode of the Public Speaking Super Powers Podcast, I’m going to talk about perfectionism and how it breeds the fear of public speaking.
Length: 5 minutes, 22 seconds
The desire to be perfect, to not make a mistake, can increase the fear of public speaking. You’ve hear it before, the often-quoted statistic that basically says people are, in general, more afraid of public speaking than dying.
I believe this is, in part, due to the belief that when you speak in front of a group of people, you can be horribly humiliated by making a mistake.
I submit to you that this perspective is, itself, a bad mistake.
Food for thought: First, in general, your audience is rooting for you. If you make a mistake, they feel bad for you. They are not looking to cut you down. So, just accept that you made a mistake and move on with grace. Your audience will go with you.
Second, unless your mistake brings about the fall of civilization as we know it, a blooper on the stage isn’t the end of the world. Get over it.
And finally, as Seymour Segnit, Founder and President of CTRN, once said, “the anxious energy that often goes into trying to make something absolutely perfect is totally counterproductive.”
In other words, the more you attempt to be perfect, the more you are likely to make a mistake. Here’s the thing: Good public speakers make mistakes and then they move on.
I’ve seen speakers who’ve had to deal with broken shoes, technical difficulties and even words not coming to mind. It happens. Each of these speakers acknowledges the blunder – if necessary and usually with humor – and then move on. They don’t bring undue attention to the goof and they don’t let it derail them from their message.
Segnit continues: “If you look at the very best speakers out there, those with the most powerful stage presence – say Barack Obama or Tony Robbins – they make mistakes, and they make them all the time – but it makes no difference to their momentum and their message.”
In other words, if Tony Robbins can survive a blooper, you can too.
The trick now becomes, how do you reduce your fear so that you’ll make fewer mistakes? For one, leave perfectionism at the door. Now, I’ve discussed perfectionism quite a bit over on my CarmaSpence.com blog, so I’ll leave some links in the show notes. But, as promised, here are three quick tips for combatting perfectionism.
- And this is the most common piece of advice. In fact, I’ve already mentioned it in this episode: Allow yourself to be wrong in front of others. Making mistakes is how we learn, so if you keep stopping yourself from the possibility of making an error, then you are also stopping yourself from growth.
- Get realistic. Are those mistakes you’re afraid of making really all that bad? Are you aiming too high for where you are on your learning curve right now? Don’t expect to be just like Feature Speaker Patricia Fripp your first … second … or even third time out. It takes time to become a seasoned speaker and you won’t get there if you let your desire to be perfect stops you from the taking the opportunities that will season you.
- Practice failing. I know this sounds strange, but it can really work. Practice making a mistake and recovering from it. That way, if you happen to make a mistake when the stakes are real, you’ll already be prepared to handle it. In other words, develop and practice your Plan B.
I hope you found value in this episode of The Public Speaking Super Powers Podcast. If so please give the podcast a thumbs up or stop by publicspeakingsuperpowers.com for more information about public speaking.
About the Public Speaking Super Powers Podcast Series
Is there a topic you’d like covered on the podcast? Would you like to ask a question about Public Speaking on the show? Send your suggestions and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and mention that it is for the PSSP podcast.