Misunderstandings about Public Speaking

3 Common Myths About Professional Speakers and Speaking

When people walk into my kitchen, their eyes always immediately go to a large centerpiece of colorful teapots arranged in the center of my granite island: 21 miniature teapots to be exact—all given to me as gifts from someone I’ve mentored for the past 14 years. She started the collection as thank-you gifts after each of our sessions, wanting them to be mementos of our time together talking shop about the speaking business.

After she’d sent the 21st teapot to symbolize specific countries where I’d spoken, I emailed to say, “Stop. No more. I don’t have any more room!”

That’s the glamorous side of the business—exotic travel and meeting new people.

But if you see speaking in your future—either as an entrepreneur or as part of your responsibilities within a corporate or nonprofit setting—then you’ll want to take a realistic look past some speaking myths and prepare accordingly:

Myth #1: Speaking Is an Art Form

Speaking is not an art form; it’s a heart form. Audiences can tell the differences. You’ve probably seen speakers who looked as though every move were choreographed—and not heard a word said for being distracted by the performance.

On the other hand, I’ve been moved to tears by speakers who told their story, standing in one spot without a single gesture, because they spoke from a well deep inside. They spoke with great sincerity, passion, and insight.

Given a choice, I’ll take both—the art and heart. If you must choose only one, be without the art. Use the heart.

Myth #2: Professional Speakers Don’t Get Nervous

Approximately 2500 professional speakers circulate routinely in my world of colleagues. Although they love what they do, many routinely deal with a case of nerves before they take the stage—either live or virtually. The difference between the professional and the amateur is that the professionals have techniques to control nervousness so that their “nerves” don’t sabotage their success. Instead, the nervousness simply causes their body to pump additional adrenalin, which they use to propel them to greater success.

So if you’re nervousness prevents you from following up on your dream, think again.

Myth #3: Speakers Earn Exorbitant Fees

Some may. Many don’t. I don’t mean they do or don’t earn good money. I’m focusing on whether it’s exorbitant.

Some become an “overnight” success after 25-30 years of extremely hard work–– in much the same way actors are discovered and become an “overnight” success after years of waiting tables, auditioning, and playing bit parts in B-movies.

Yes, some speakers earn a 7-figure income, depending on their credentials also as an bestselling author, consultant, and content creator and the results they create in their client organizations. Some speakers provide the same results and earn only 6 figures because their marketing doesn’t work as well as they do.

Many critics attach the label “exorbitant” to “fees” because they simply don’t understand what speakers do to earn their money. When questioned about fees (“You mean you charge $XXXXX to speak for an hour?”), I’ve often been tempted to respond this way:

“No, actually, I deliver the keynote for free. Here’s what I charge for:  time in interviewing your key people about goals for the conference, time in researching your organization and your competitors, time in analyzing the problems you say you’re having and identifying key solutions, time in customizing my talk to your situation, staff time in producing A-V support materials for your audience, 2 days travel time, time in debriefing with you after the speech, and for my expertise in knowing how to solve your problem.”

Toss in the stress of travel, terrorism, rioting, and bad weather in these current times of often-cancelled flights, and “exorbitant” rarely comes to mind. So if you’re thinking about your own future, compute your REAL hourly or daily income to get a realistic picture of income.


Can you think of other myths to dispel about professional speaking?

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