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‹ View all articles 10th April 2014

Why failure is essential in public speaking

Authenticity

I've been public speaking for years. I'm good at what I do. There's nothing new I can learn about public speaking. 

Whoa... whoa... whoa... wait a minute. There is always something we can learn; be it techniques, skills, and the ever changing world of technology. The minute we believe there's nothing new to learn is the moment when we are vulnerable to becoming stale and UN-authentic. Two no-no's it's always important to avoid. So how do you gain confidence without being overly so? Read on and learn why failure (yes I said it) is essential in public speaking.

 “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”  ~ Henry Ford

The overly confident public speaker has issues with... failure. Something that many are terrified to admit... especially those that are overly cocky. Scott Lewis, a wonderful Astronomer who speaks quite frequently through podcasts and webinars and live hangouts at NASA and little things like that... says this about failure in his blog Know the Cosmos.

The risk of failure is necessary in this, which is where many people stop. Failing is not only necessary, but it must be welcomed and accepted by anybody deciding to push forward to do remarkable deeds. This risk of failure is a constant source of terror for the vast majority of us, but it is not the place to stop. It’s the place to reflect on the amazing things that you are able to do while also becoming aware of the fact that there are a multitude of remarkable people with whom you can collaborate with, if you take the time to choose wisely. ~ Scott Lewis 

You see, cocky or overconfident types, are like small children whistling in the dark to keep the bogey man away. It's the flip side of the coin of fear. True confidence is filled with humility, knowing that there is always more to learn. It can be difficult to hear, but you must admit and acknowledge your shortcomings before you can move to another level. Either you truly ARE a perfect speaker or you're not being honest with yourself.

Another trap of the overly confident speaker is having closed ears. Not listening to audience feedback or thinking that there isn't anything else to learn is a major stumbling block for any public speaker. As Edgar Mumble crumpled the feedback forms he thought to himself "How dare they say my talk was boring? What do these people know anyway? I've studied this subject for 15 years. They begged me to talk. They obviously didn't have a clue." Not listening to feedback can be a major stumbling block for any public speaker.

As we learned in the Ginger persuasive speaking guide, going over-the-top or in your face is the best way to persuade right? Not exactly. Not even a little bit. This aggressive technique is one that savvy consumers are more than used to dealing with. (Think telemarketers or traveling salesman - yuck!). Audiences have developed many defense mechanisms around this type of behavior.

Being confident means being realistic about yourself. Admitting flaws and learning from failures can be an extremely valuable tool for learning. And as we know, there is always something to learn, something new to keep us fresh and exciting. Awareness is a public speaker's best friend.

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