by Tom Bartasi
When we prepare to publicly speak, whether it’s for a big presentation at work, making a toast at a special event, or simply giving an Ice Breaker speech to our fellow Toastmasters, the mindset we have during the preparation stage will have a lot to do with our performance when the big day comes, as well as our growth as a public speaker.
What are our expectations? Where have we set the bar for ourselves? For a lot of people – particularly us “high achievers” – there is a tendency to use the measuring stick of perfection. Webster’s Dictionary defines “perfect” as “being entirely without fault or defect.”
However, to strive for perfection in public speaking is a fool’s errand and often puts undue pressure on ourselves that only works to undermine our performance when the spotlight is on us.
For example, say you have prepared to be perfect, yet you make a mistake or two right at the beginning of your speech. If perfection is your target, then you might say to yourself “look at me, I’ve already failed” and you’ll likely be thrown off for the rest of your speech.
As the saying goes, “pobody’s nerfect.” So, rather than having a mindset of perfection, a better mindset would be to strive for excellence. Webster’s Dictionary defines “excellent” as “very good of its kind; eminently good.”
If we strive for excellence, it allows us room – room to relax, room to allow ourselves to make mistakes, room to simply be ourselves – while at the same time allowing us to come away from a “less-than-perfect” performance being completely satisfied. This positive experience will also give us something to build on for the next time we publicly speak.
Keep in mind though, striving for excellence, rather than perfection, does not mean putting less effort into our preparation. To the contrary, excellence in performance demands excellence in preparation, but just make sure to give yourself room to breathe and be yourself along the way.