Friday, August 6, 2010
Lack of preparation can be just as bad as too much preparation
If you do a Google search on “public speaking” one of the top-ten results will be an almost 4500-word long special report on How To Conquer Public Speaking Fear written long ago by Morton C. Orman, M.D. Dr. Orman listed the following ten principles, most of which are good advice:
"1. Speaking in public is not inherently stressful.
2. You don't have to be brilliant or perfect to succeed.
3. All you need is two or three main points.
4. You also need a purpose that is right for the task.
5. The best way to succeed is not to consider yourself a public speaker!
6. Humility and humor can go a long way.
7. When you speak in public, nothing "bad" can ever happen!
8. You don't have to control the behavior of your audience.
9. In general, the more you prepare, the worse you will do.
10. Your audience truly wants you to succeed."
I disagree with #9. Dr. Orman’s advice on this topic is that:
“9. In general, the more you prepare, the worse you will do.
Preparation is useful for any public appearance. How you prepare, however, and how much time you need to spend are other matters entirely.
Many of the errors in thinking we've discussed so far often creep in to people's strategies for preparation. If you have the wrong focus (i.e., purpose), if you try to do too much, if you want everyone to applaud your every word, if you fear something bad might happen or you might make a minor mistake, then you can easily drive yourself crazy trying to overprepare your talk. In these instances, the more effort you put in, the worse you probably will do.
On the other hand, if you know your subject well, or if you've spoken about it many times before, you may only need a few minutes to prepare sufficiently. All you might need is to remind yourself of the two or three key points you want to make, along with several good examples and supporting facts and . . . BOOM you're ready to go.
Overpreparation usually means you either don't know your subject well or you do, but you don't feel confident about your ability to speak about it in public. In the former instance, you'll need to do some extra research. In the latter, you'll need to develop trust in your natural ability to speak successfully. The only way to do this is to put yourself in the spotlight, over and over again.
Go out and solicit opportunities to speak on your subject in public. Offer to speak free or for a small fee, enough to cover your expenses. If you have something of value to tell others, keep getting in front of people and deliver it. In no time at all, you'll gain confidence. You'll also begin to respect the natural public speaker/communicator within you.”
If you obsessively over prepare and rehearse way too much, then you likely will do worse. In general though, most people prepare too little for public speaking. You definitely need some rehearsing before you speak.
Not being prepared can lead to an undesirable outcome, as in the following cautionary tale about golf (and urination) which may or may not be about the exact same Morton C. Orman. Mike Argento discussed it here and here on his Argento’s Front Stoop blog.
The older man described in the story had the not uncommon problem of an enlarged prostate. Many men with this problem discreetly carry a plastic jar or bottle as an emergency urinal. That man apparently did not. On August 7, 2005 he relieved himself on a tree at the 17th hole of a rural golf course rather than wait and travel the 400 yards to the clubhouse. A nearby homeowner was outraged, and called the Pennsylvania State Police. The golfer was cited for disorderly conduct and fined $25.
His attorney first appealed the case to the York County Common Pleas Court. Then, after he lost, he appealed again to a three-justice Pennsylvania Superior Court panel. The Superior Court overturned the conviction in mid-December of 2006. Those two appeals resulting from a lack of preparation cost that golfer a lot more than a plastic jar would have.
In January Nick Blanchett wrote another long article about fear. It was based on Orman’s advice, but also incorporated several flow charts rather than just relying on a massive text.