What constitutes perfection in public speaking? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. You can type a paper perfectly. You can have a perfect score on a test. You can sew or cut a perfectly straight line. But who is to say that a presentation or a speech is delivered perfectly? Perfection in such a situation is subjective. What I may consider perfect, you may not.
If you strive for perfection in any form of public speaking, you have just lost the battle. And, if you are typical of the Type A personality, you may have difficulty accepting this idea: your life is often ruled by the desire to achieve perfection in all that you do. Unfortunately, excessive stress follows you everywhere because you are striving, in many cases, for the unattainable.
Just the thought of needing to be perfect when you deliver your next presentation adds a tremendous amount of pressure to your preparation, your practice, and your eventual delivery – stress that is unnecessary, unwarranted, and unfounded. Back in 2009, Susan Boyle, the Irish singer who stunned the world with her performance on Britain’s Got Talent, did not deliver a perfect performance: she gave an excellent performance.
Excellence is what I want you to strive for. It means:
- knowing your material extremely well;
- acknowledging your audience by making eye contact with them;
- speaking with color, with life, with emotion and with animation;
- learning how to control your nervousness so that it works for you and not against you;
- believing in yourself.
If you can accomplish those 5 prerequisites, you are guaranteed to be successful. Too often, those who are new to public speaking (and even some who are experienced) try to be someone or something they are not when standing at the lectern. My advice is to be yourself, first and foremost.
Accept the fact that you may make a mistake or two. Everyone does. If your presentation is filled with mistakes, then you don’t know your material and you are to blame. But if you are prepared and have practiced your material out loud, recorded some of your rehearsals, studied your delivery and made changes where necessary, then you have accomplished one of the most important aspects of your presentation. You will discover that the other 4 components are much easier to achieve if your preparation beforehand is solid and rehearsed.
Prepare, practice, present and strive to do the best job that you can do. That is when excellence is achieved.