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  • Writer's pictureYasmine El-Baz

3 Habits Standing in Your Way of Becoming a Better Speaker

I’ve always emphasized the fact that there are plenty of reasons behind your struggle to become a better speaker other than the stress of speaking itself.

While we spend much time thinking about whether we fit in public speaking and whether our anxiety will appear to the audience, we spend little to no time focusing on the important things that have a major impact on our public speaking skills development journey. Unsurprisingly, our habits are among the essential elements that must be considered to facilitate our progress.

Here below are 3 of the top bad habits that are standing in the way of being a better speaker.


1) Procrastination

Procrastination is the habit of unnecessarily delaying an important task, usually by focusing on less urgent, more enjoyable, and easier activities instead.

Procrastination in public speaking could take many forms, such as spending most of the time working on your visual aids while delaying the most important element, which is the rehearsal. It could also be delaying the whole preparation for your presentation/speech to the last minute to avoid being stressed about it. Or it could be delaying your participation and speaking up at different opportunities to also avoid the stressful feelings accompanying it.

At its core, procrastination is mostly a gateway to focusing on unpleasant tasks, and it makes a lot of sense to do so. However, most things we do comfortably today were unpleasant and uncomfortable to us at the beginning. Not to mention that change will always be accompanied by discomfort. That’s why it’s an essential step to feel and be used to that discomfort for a while to achieve the change you desire.


How to start changing that habit?

a) Think of it, say it then write it!

To avoid spending most of your time working on your visual aids and to face your stress, I’ve always encouraged my clients not to start with writing their content or designing their visuals. Instead, they should think of their main content outline, stand up, and rehearse as if they are in front of their audience, if the content is convenient for them and is achieving their objectives, then they could start writing it and deciding what visuals they’ll need to support it.

That way, you’re rehearsing your delivery from the 1st minute, you’re facing the stress of feeling at the moment, you’re using content that matches your delivery style, not just content that looks good on paper, and you’re letting your content and delivery style decide your visual aids, not the other way around.


b) Your public speaking opportunities are essential!

One of the common phrases I hear from my clients is: “I’ve been overwhelmed with work; I didn’t have enough time to prepare for my presentation.”

What you need to understand is that those speaking opportunities could transform your career and open up many opportunities that were difficult for you before. This means that those opportunities should be at the top of your list, and you should allocate time for them quite often. Treat them as an important meeting that will determine your next promotion or big investment. 


2) Negative self-talk

We all have been there, attacking ourselves or belittling ourselves. It’s okay to go through this, but in a healthier manner, as a way to validate whether you’re making the right decisions and to ensure we don’t deceive ourselves from seeing the truth.

The problem with negative self-talk, generally and in public speaking specifically, is that you don’t give yourself enough chances to prove yourself wrong. If you’ve predecided that you aren’t fit for public speaking even before you consume the right development paths, your mind waits for any incident to prove that point of view. This is one type of cognitive distortion called “Mind reading or jumping to conclusions”; when you jump to conclusions, you interpret an event or situation negatively without evidence supporting such a conclusion. Then, you react to your assumption, which could be avoiding public speaking altogether.


How to start changing that habit?

a) Face your mind.

One of the most wrong things to do is to try to escape your negative thoughts; what’s better to do is to write them down and start validating each one with evidence, not just based on your point of view.

For example:

Thought:

  • People hated my presentation.

Validation questions:

  • Did people start leaving in the middle of your talk?

  • Have they loudly shared their disinterest?

  • Have you received negative feedback from 5 people or more?

  • Have they stopped you from completing your presentation without an apparent reason?

If your answer to these questions is NO, then you don’t have real evidence that your audience disliked your presentation and most probably it’s just your misinterpretation of their reactions or you’re just dwelling on your assumptions.


b) Test your capabilities properly.

It’s completely illogical to decide you’ll never be a good public speaker from 5 presentations, for example, and it’s also illogical to determine that as well just because you delivered an unsatisfactory presentation that you haven’t even prepared well for. And it’s nonsense to expect your presentation to be perfect.

I believe we can all be great public speakers when we exert the necessary effort and stay persistent in achieving our goals. And while you think your capabilities are poor, you could be ruining your opportunity to be good at public speaking just because you haven’t tried properly.

There are plenty of ways to enhance your public speaking skills. Make sure to give them a proper try before making any judgments.


3) Fear of judgment

It’s natural for humans to worry about other people’s opinions. The problem is when we let that fear decide for us what we should or should not do.

One significant source of fear in public speaking is the fear of being judged or exposed, which pushes people either to avoid public speaking or to avoid trying new things and expanding their limits.


How to start changing that habit?

a) Accept the fact that judgment will happen either way.

Whether you deliver that presentation or not, some people will judge you. This happens in everything we do in life, from the way we say good morning to the recent decision we made. It will happen either way. You cannot stop living just because other people will judge you. If it will happen either way, why not try to do what we always wanted to do?


 b) Understand that It’s not personal!

We all have our perspectives or judgments on things. If I disagree with an idea you’re presenting, that doesn’t necessarily mean I dislike or disrespect you.

This means people can judge your ideas, and you should accept them. The point is to understand that it isn’t merely about you or a sign of disrespect to you. That’s why when entering a presentation or a speech, understand that judgment is a natural part of the persuasion process, and your audience could disagree and negatively judge your idea, which is their right when done respectfully. It has nothing to do with your value as a person.


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