I’ve said it many times before, speakers are created, not born, and I firmly believe that anyone can become a good, if not great speaker given enough guidance and time. However, there are some people who you watch up there on stage, and you simply cringe as they stutter and stumble their way through what should be a fairly easy speech.
So why does this happen?
Well, the first thing to realise is that for many people, speaking isn’t easy, and yet when a good speaker inspires a crowd, they make it look simple. People watch a comedian breeze their way through a two-hour set and wonder why they themselves don’t do it.
Maybe they go to a conference and watch the manager from a competing company get up on stage and wow the crowd, making them gasp, laugh and fall silent like a conductor controlling an orchestra, and think they can do it too. Then they try, and they fail, and it’s extremely awkward.
In this situation is it important for them to analyse what happened and fnd out what went wrong. Then they should be able to pick themselves up and get ready to speak at the next event, but importantly, put in some practice this time.
Can you speak without practise?
We can sometimes make assumptions about what we see on stage, and one of the biggest is that the person speaking, or the comedian wowing the crowd has not practised. They perform with such fluidity and skill that it can seem they’re ad-libbing. They’re ‘riffing’ and simply going along with the flow, they’re feeding off the crowd, and everything is coming naturally to them.
This couldn’t be any further from the truth. Most speakers have practised for hours, days, maybe even weeks. Their words have been written, edited, finely tuned and honed to be absolutely perfect. And after each presentation, they’ll edit them again, tuning them to work even better next time to catch the feeling of the audience.
Speakers very rarely walk out on stage with no idea as to what they’re about to say, and even those who do, and who can ad-lib, it’s only because they’ve been speaking for so long and have practised so much. Like any skill, it can eventually become second nature, but until that time, it’s essential to be prepared.
So many people miss this crucial step and walk out on stage for the first time thinking they can just grab the crowd’s attention and then it all goes wrong. The mouth dries up; they start to sweat, and they get the shakes.
Of course, this isn’t to say that you should be put off speaking. It can be a very lucrative career, and it can help your job prospects, but nobody should be of the opinion that it’s easy.
Like every skill, it needs to be learned, practised and perfected.