There isn’t a week that goes by…sometimes not a day…when I don’t hear these words from a client:
“I’m really worried about bombing when I give my speech.”
I’ll save the bombing jokes out of sensitivity to the Belfast/Beirut/Belgrade/Baghdad/Boise markets – but whenever people say this, it really sticks with me.
Because the fear of humiliation is so deep, so profound, so ingrained, that it completely paralyzes our potential.
And this fear is fed by a myth – that people will care if we bomb.
Spoiler alert – they don’t and they won’t. Here’s why:
1) Most speeches suck. Yup. You know this is true because you’ve sat through them. You’ve heard the awful Maid of Honor speech with the inside jokes that went on for 15 minutes. You’ve heard the toast-dry CEO go through his slides and put you to sleep more effectively than Nyquil. You’ve heard the Grammy acceptance speeches that made you want to throw your TV off the balcony. But that’s not all bad news. People are accustomed to bad speeches. They expect them. So one more bad speech is just par for the course.
2) People care about themselves first, second, and last. That speech where you flubbed the line and needed to regain your place. Remember that one? Where you thought everyone was judging and secretly thinking, “Ha! What a loser!”. You know what they were really thinking? “How am I gonna pay off my credit cards?” “I really need to get that rash looked at.” “I hope this thing ends early so I can beat the traffic.” People have limited attention spans, and they focus inward. What felt like the end of the world to you was a forgettable blip to them.
3) People have short memories. As soon as you’re done, people simply resume their lives. The only person left in the building still hung up on your mistake was you. Everyone else is already onto the next thing. The only way speeches stick with someone is if they’re amazing. Profound. Life-changing. Or so horrifically bad that they intentionally offended everyone with the most malicious language possible. Chances are, what you just delivered was neither, and fell in the spectrum of the 99% that people hear every day.
So the next time you have to get up there, take a deep breath and realize that there’s no downside. You can’t fail. You either wow them, or it’s just another day at the office. Either way, you’re golden.
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