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Debunking the Top 3 Public Speaking Myths

I’ve been speaking professionally on stage for the better part of the past decade. While I’ve hosted a few events and workshops for my agency’s clients, the vast majority of my work is thanks to my speaker’s bureau, The Lavin Agency. After helping me to secure a book deal in 2010 to share my digital marketing experience, I’ve been especially busy on the road (or, more specifically, up in the air).

There is a lot of misinformation about what those of us on the speaking circuit do on a regular basis. For starters, if you Google “Confessions of a Keynote Speaker” you’ll discover articles about people making $30,000 an hour — and that’s, according to a number of posts, the norm. Here are a few (more) common myths about professional speaking:

1. “It gets easier every time.” Every single event is different. Heck, it’s not just the events that are different, it’s the travel to the event, the work before the event, and the experience on the ground at the event. While I’ve become more comfortable on stage over the years, I wouldn’t say that any part of the experience is easy. Moreover, there is never a single day that I take it for granted. I am absolutely thrilled when someone wants to hear me speak (and wants to pay me to speak!), and I worry incessantly about doing a great job for that client. Whether I’m jet-lagged, there are technical problems, or the audience is hungover, the whole experience involves a constant influx of mini obstacles.

2. “Slides are a crutch.” I know a lot of keynote speakers will agree with this statement, but I’d argue that slides almost always enhance a presentation. I’ve seen dozens of world-class speakers, and in my early days on stage, I worked closely with business coach Tony Robbins (who always delivers a rich multimedia experience that includes slides and music). In today’s visual world, I think it’s nearly impossible for an audience to sit through an hour of non-stop talking. Don’t get me wrong, slides should enhance what you’re saying, not replace it; if done properly, there is no better way to provide the audience with a great experience.

3. “You were born to speak.” There are those people who were born to speak and those of us who have developed / are developing those skills. I hated speaking in public all throughout my school years, but over the years I’ve worked hard to overcome those fears. As a mom, it was especially challenging to be on stage throughout my pregnancy and exhausting in the months (who am I kidding, years) thereafter. However, I did it to support to my family and to do something that then allowed me to have flexibility as a parent. Sure, I might be gone for a day or so every week or two, but when I’m back I can put my head down at my home office and focus on my other business.

In the end, what I love the most about speaking is that I learn something new every single time I keynote or host an event. What has made it easier over these years is that I truly believe that most audience members want me (or any speaker) to succeed. While I still get nervous before I go on stage, I now just accept it as part of the entire process.