As a reformed perfectionist, I know public speaking is tough.
Public speaking: On it’s own it’s one of the scariest, most nerve-wracking things you will ever do.
Couple that with perfectionism and you’ve got a recipe for stress, frustration, and zero progress.
Here are some ways to deal with the pressure of public speaking and perfectionism at the same time.
Set yourself ground rules
Don’t start any preparation before setting yourself some ground rules (but don’t stop if you’ve already started!… Just set the ground rules now and keep going.)
There are two ground rules essential to keeping you on-track.
#1: Mistakes happen, accept and deal with them
No matter how well prepared you are mistakes are going to happen.
You’re going to slip up.
You’re going to say the wrong words here and there.
You’re going to say something out of order.
Something will go wrong.
Accept that mistakes will happen. Decide that you’ll be able to deal with them.
Whether you are practicing or actually live on stage, remember the golden rule: if you make a mistake just keep going… there’s no going back.
#2: No second-guessing
As you prepare, as you practice, don’t second-guess yourself.
If you are constantly feeling, “I’m not sure if that’s the best way. Maybe I could say it like this…” you’ll never get off the second-guessing roundabout.
Choose a path, decide what to say and stick to it. Give yourself permission to adjust, but when you feel adjustment moving into indecision that’s the signal. That’s when you need to just focus on making progress.
Prepare your speech in discreet chunks
For someone who is not a perfectionist, a mistake here or there is nothing to worry about.
For a perfectionist a mistake here or there can send you back to the drawing board.
When you are preparing, especially as you practice, you don’t want a slight mistake to stop you in your tracks.
Of course, you should try to push forward even when a small mistake has been made (remember: mistakes happen). But if we can prepare to minimize the mistakes it’s even better.
Here’s what I recommend:
#1: Plan out, at an abstract level, what you want to say in your whole speech.
What is the key theme you will talk about?
What is the take-away for the audience?
What are the main points in your speech?
#2: Break your abstract speech plan into discreet chunks. Each chunk should be an easily digestible part of your speech.
Depending on the total length of your speech this could equate to (in writing terms) a few lines or a few paragraphs.
At this point the “chunks” are just keywords or headlines. Now you need to get a basic idea of what you need to say in each chunk. Don’t try and be perfect here. Just jot down ideas.
#3: Practice time!
This is the cool thing for everyone, especially perfectionists. You are going to practice your speech, but you’re not going to practice it all at once. You’re going to practice each discreet chunk until you are happy with it.
Once you are happy with chunk 1 move on to chunk 2, and so on.
Once you are comfortable with all your chunks it’s time to practice them as one speech.
What do you think? What do you struggle most with in public speaking? Comment below and let’s chat…
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