I am an Asian non-native English speaker. I am petite and soft-spoken. Sometimes, I’ll take a few seconds to reply to you because I’m busy translating what I want to say in my head from my mother tongue to English. Even after leaving my home country, Myanmar, and living in an English speaking country, Australia for almost two decades, I still speak with an accent. I was often too uncomfortable and embarrassed to hear myself speak in one on one settings, let alone speak in-front of an audience. That was until a few years ago. Today, I consider myself a pretty good speaker — warm, authentic and knowledgeable. I’d like to share the top three myths of public speaking and how anyone can become a good speaker.
You need to have perfect English to be an international speaker
Ted Talks had us believe that you need to have perfect English to be a great speaker. The Ted talk speakers speak so posh, with no grammatical mistake. As a non-native English speaker, I couldn’t help but felt a bit inferior. It wasn’t until I started letting go of my own limiting belief that I was able to allow myself to speak at major conferences. I’m glad I did because it made me realize that how you deliver your content is much more important than how you pronounce a word or how you structure your sentence. A bit of a tip on how to deliver content that audience will respond well to: deliver it from your heart, with your personal experience, for the benefit of the audience.
You need to come up with either a ground breaking, unconventional or brand new topic
One of the most common reasons why people don’t apply for speaking opportunities is that they don’t think they have any topic to speak about. If you’re one of those folks, I’ve some news for you: there are always people who don’t know what you know. Sometimes, the simplest topics are the most popular topics at conferences, as long as you share it from your perspective and your personal experience. One of my most well-received talks was about leadership, titled “How to survive and thrive as an engineering leader.” When I was preparing for the talk, I kept thinking to myself that whatever I will be sharing was nothing new and the audience will be disappointed. I was amazed at how engaged audience was during the talk and the feedback I received after the talk. Even though it was a common topic, adding my personal experience made it interesting and entertaining.
Seasoned speakers don’t feel nervous because they’ve done it many times
2018 was my year of public speaking. Towards the second half of the year, I was speaking almost every month, sometimes a few times a month. I was hoping that the more I did it, the less nervous I would be. At the end of the year, I reflected on my experiences and I have to say while I’ve improved on my public speaking skill by doing it many times, I still feel the nerves before going on stage. Thinking it was just me, I shared my experience with a few other speakers and they assured me that they felt the same. It doesn’t matter whether it’s your fifth time public speaking or fiftieth, you will still feel butterflies in your stomach and it’s a good thing! Because you can then transform that nervous energy into enthusiasm.
Despite all of the setbacks, I have done multiple speaking gigs and I’ve had a chance to connect with thousands of audience members. It wasn’t always easy. Scratch that — it was never easy. But I know that I will do it again because I love being able to share what I know and know that I will have made an impact in someone’s life by sharing my knowledge and experience. For every talk that I’ll do in future, I’ll always remember to deliver the content from my heart, with my personal experience, for the benefit of the audience. I hope you give public speaking a try too.