The Eight Myths of Public Speaking
(published by SmartCompany, 2012)
Myth #1: To be a successful speaker you just have to be a good talker
Why it's false: To be a successful speaker you must have earned the right to speak (through exceptional achievement in business, sport, exploration or some other field of human endeavour). Add to that exceptional communication skills, ability to entertain and ability to bond with an audience and you have a rare breed. We receive 20 speaker applications per week and this is a popular myth.
Myth #2: A professional speaker is the same as a speaking professional
Why it's false: The speaking professional bases his or her speaking on extraordinary personal achievement, while the professional speaker is often an excellent communicator or entertainer without that personal achievement. At Saxton we specialise in speaking professionals.
Myth #3: Many thousands of dollars for a 40 minute speech is very expensive
Why it's false: Aside from the extensive preparation that goes into any speech from the quality speaker, the 40 minute speech often reflects 40 years of credibility, experience and wisdom. One idea can often return the investment many times over. It is the speaker who will be remembered long after the event costs are forgotten.
Myth #4: Anyone can be a great public speaker
Why it's false: As Aristotle said, "Public speaking is an art" and indeed it remains the domain of a relatively few gifted people. The greats incidentally worked very hard at their craft: they include Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy... and from the modern day I would include the extremely gifted Rod McGeoch in this class. Of course, everyone can improve their abilities with appropriate instruction, preparation and practice.
Myth #5: Speaking is easy for the top speaking professionals
Why it's false: In the vast majority of cases a speech requires a lot of work and almost every successful speaker still has 'nerves'. It is this that I believe continues to give them that special edge, enabling them to perform at the top level and continue to inspire their audiences.
Myth #6: The more audio-visual support the better
Why it's false: The great orators - Winston Churchill, Rod McGeoch, James Strong, Peter Ustinov, Bob Carr, Gregory David Roberts, Gough Whitlam, Bob Geldof, Gill Hicks, David Lange, Ita Buttrose, to name a few - use no audio-visual support at all... they have the gift of creating word pictures, infinitely more powerful than the visual wordage we see so often. There are exceptions - including Graeme Joy and Robert Swan - great speakers who use limited video and PowerPoint to great effect. In these cases, it's a question of balance.
Myth #7: So long as the speaker is prepared, they needn't worry about conditions and logistics at the venue at which they are speaking
Why it's false: The speaker should be prepared for everything. I remember one speaker who relied heavily on PowerPoint support being set up beautifully with his laptop ready to go... all was under control until he took one step backwards and trod on the cable that connected his computer to the screens. He was left apparently with no audio-visuals. He had however left a copy of his slides with the AV operator who, in one of the best examples of support I have ever seen in this business, typed in the powerpoint furiously as the speaker spoke and the event ran seamlessly. I remember his last slide which sipmly read: "PHEW!" This saved the day, but an important lesson to be learned is that every speaker should be able to perform without audio-visuals.
Myth #8: Speakers bureaux only book speakers
Why it's false: There is much more to the speakers bureau than speakers. A quality bureau will provide a level of service and surety that transforms the often onerous task of engaging a speaker into a pleasurable and hugely rewarding one. They should:
- Handle all logistics and backup to ensure your speaker arrives and is ready to perform;
- Have extensive experience so that they can assist you in the right choice of speaker for your event. They know what works and what support is required;
- Have creative and often unique solutions to make your event special;
- Offer 24 hour support for those rare occasions when something goes wrong. We recently booked a speaker who, sadly, suffered a heart attack the day before he was due to perform. We had another speaker organised and set up for briefing within hours... a difficult task for the client who is dealing directly with a speaker. These events are fortunately rare but it is very reassuring, to know that that support is at hand when necessary.
Add to this copywriting, program design, advertising materials and much more and you are looking at a very comprehensive service. We consider the bureau as acting as a partner to our clients in delivering critical talents.
"Great staff and service. Appreciated the support in negotiating a fee within our budget and the opportunity to speak to the presenter directly. We mucked around a bit with the date and time and your patience with this was appreciated also."
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