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Lies We Tell Ourselves that Hold Us Back as Public Speakers

By Joey Asher

Category: Content

Are you a lousy speaker?

It might be because you believe one of the following lies.

Lie # 1: My topic is dull.

When I was a newspaper reporter, we had a saying: “There are no bad stories. Only bad reporters.”

The same idea applies to public speaking topics. I worked with an attorney who specialized in helping neighborhood associations. “There’s nothing interesting about neighborhood association law,” he told me.

“That may be the case, I said. But as a public speaker, your job isn’t to talk about the law. It’s to talk about how to help your audience solve problems.”

The attorney was planning to speak the following week to a neighborhood association. He focused his message on how to deal with the group’s biggest challenge: confronting a nightclub that was being disruptive to the neighborhood.

People are always interested in solutions to their key issues.

Lie # 2: I’m dull. Therefore my speeches are dull.

OK. You may well be dull. Maybe even your wife says you’re dull. But even dull people can give engaging speeches. You must remember that the speaker’s job isn’t to showcase your personality; it’s to help your audience. (See Lie # 1)

The community association lawyer that I mentioned before wasn’t a particularly dynamic person. But he engaged his audience by leaving lots of time to answer questions on important issues.

He had so many questions that he had to cut everyone off because the night was getting late.

Lie # 3: I don’t have the time to create a great presentation.

You can create an engaging presentation even if you’re short on time.

To create a quick presentation, ask yourself the following question: “What are the three questions that my listeners would most likely ask me about this topic?” For your presentation, answer those questions and then sit down.

I urged the Supply Chain Vice President of a large retailer to use this strategy when addressing several thousand store managers. He had one slide with the three questions. He spoke for 20 minutes addressing the questions. When he finished, the CEO congratulated him on his best presentation ever.

It took him less than an hour to create his presentation. That left him time to rehearse.

Lie #4: You shouldn’t practice too much.

Many people claim it’s best not to practice too much. “You don’t want to come off as stiff and rehearsed,” they say.

I agree that you shouldn’t recite a speech from memory. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have to practice.

I worked with a senior executive at a bank who told me that she was a lousy speaker despite a great deal of rehearsal. I found out that her rehearsal approach was to write out her speech word for word. Then she would practice it so many times that she could recite it from memory. The feedback she received was that she came off like a high school student reciting an essay from memory.

I urged her to make an outline of her key messages but not to write out the speech word for word. I then urged her to start practicing with only a few notes in front of her. She sounded far more natural.

Of course, she still had to practice a lot. The best speakers always do.

© Wickedgood | / People raising hands to ask questions at business training

Speechworks is a communication and selling skills coaching firm. We teach professionals how to craft and deliver complex messages in a simple, persuasive manner. Since 1986, through workshops and one-on-one instruction, we have helped countless individuals become better presenters and communicators. You can reach us at 404.266.0888, or on the web at

Joey Asher

Joey is the President of Speechworks, a communication and selling skills coaching firm. He has worked with thousands of professionals, helping them learn to communicate in a way that connects with clients and audiences. He is also the author of four books on communication skills: “15 Minutes Including Q&A: a Plan to Save the World from Lousy Presentations,” “How to Win a Pitch: The Five Fundamentals That Will Distinguish You from the Competition,” “Selling and Communication Skills for Lawyers,” and “Even A Geek Can Speak.” He can be reached at 404-266-0888 or


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