‘Don’t Let Myths About Public Speaking Hold You Back’

“There are many misconceptions about speaking,” says public speaking coach and veteran public relations executive Rosemary Ravinal. In this column, Ravinal debunks some more myths about public speaking with one key takeaway: “Everyone can uplevel” communications skills with the right motivation, guidance and practice.



By Rosemary Ravinal

Let’s get something straight about public speaking. Just because you can talk doesn’t mean you’re speaking. Speaking in the sense of connecting, informing, transforming, inspiring, and persuading others is an art form that requires skill and practice.

There are many misconceptions about speaking. I hear them every day in my workshops and private coaching. Let’s debunk some more myths about public speaking and set the record straight: Communication skills are fundamental to success in work and life, and everyone can uplevel those skills with guidance, motivation, and practice.

Myth 1: You must be a natural-born speaker to succeed.

Reality: Yes, some people have the “gift of gab” and seem to speak in public without apparent effort. Perhaps they learned the skill early in life. More likely they made a conscious decision to become more effective communicators. Thomas Edison said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Like any skill, public speaking requires practice, dedication, and a willingness to step out of your comfort zone. Even the most eloquent speakers started somewhere, often with nerves and imperfections. Through deliberate practice and continuous improvement, anyone can become a proficient communicator.

Myth 2: You need to be extroverted to excel as a speaker.

Reality: Contrary to popular belief, introverts can be just as effective – if not more so – as public speakers. Some examples: Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, Winston Churchill, and Abraham Lincoln. While extroverts may thrive in the spotlight, introverts often bring depth, authenticity, and thoughtful insight to their presentations. Public speaking is not about being the loudest voice in the room; it’s about connecting with your audience, conveying your message with clarity and conviction, and leaving a lasting impact.

Myth 3: Nervousness is a sign of weakness.

Reality: It’s perfectly normal to feel nervous before speaking in public – even seasoned professionals experience pre-speech jitters (and sweats). Mark Twain said it best, “There are two types of speakers: those who are nervous and those who are liars.” Nervousness is not a sign of weakness but rather a natural response to the adrenaline and anticipation that come with performing in front of others. Instead of trying to eliminate nervousness entirely, learn to manage and channel it productively. Turn nervous into excited. Take the butterflies in your stomach and teach them to fly in formation.

Myth 4: Effective speaking is all about charisma and style.

Reality: While charisma and style can enhance your performance, substance and authenticity are ultimately what resonate with audiences. Charisma is the X factor that gives you an advantage because people naturally follow charismatic leaders who sparkle and display poise. But you cannot lose sight of the importance of conveying your message with clarity, credibility, and conviction. Focus on delivering valuable content, supporting your points with evidence or anecdotes, and engaging your audience through meaningful storytelling and interaction. Authenticity breeds connection, and sincerity fosters trust – qualities that are far more impactful than charisma and style alone.

Don’t let myths and misconceptions discourage you from using the power of your voice to make a difference in the world. Whether you’re preparing for your first presentation or refining your oratory, you have something important to say. Remember that the journey to becoming a proficient public speaker is paved with dedication, growth, and a willingness to embrace the process. Anyone can do it, and that includes you.

Do you need help polishing a speech or presentation for work?  Private coaching sessions with Rosemary Ravinal are available in May and June. Schedule a quick call with Rosemary to get started.