No, you probably didn’t.
Lots of people suffer over the real or imagined errors in their public speech. But here’s the thing: A communication is only “wrong” (if you even want to take that tone), when
- Your audience totally doesn’t get it.
Yup, that’s it. The sole determinant of a public speaking error is, “Does my audience understand me?” If they do, as much as you may prefer to have said something differently, you didn’t say it “wrong.”
Don’t Do the Time if You Didn’t Do the “Crime”
In contrast, the following things (unpleasant as they may feel in the moment), aren’t truly “cringe-worthy”:
- It sounded awkward.
- It was incomplete.
- It wasn’t what I practiced.
- It could have been better.
I would submit that these aren’t public speaking “errors.” They’re just facts of public speaking life.
Things To Do To Avoid the Cringe
It’s not the so-called “error,” but rather the cringe reflex itself — often complete with self-critical voice — that interrupts your flow, separates you from what you’re saying, and takes your attention off what really matters, which is connecting with your audience.
So what can you do to cut back on the habit of second-guessing (or even attacking) yourself as you speak?
The most important thing is to not practice the cringe reflex.
- When you’re practicing, don’t stop unless you’ve totally and completely tied yourself in knots.
- If you have to stop and start again, pick it up from where you left off. (Feel free to do that in your actual speech, if needed, with a comment like, “You know what? I’m going to say that again!”)
- After the first few times, don’t practice a speech or pitch from the beginning to the end. Jump around — working on, playing with, polishing — random sections. This is a wonderful way to disconnect your brain from the corrosive idea that your talk has to unfold in a predetermined way, from start to finish, and be error-free.
Shuck the Self-Fulfilling Prophesy
Most of all, try to avoid the idea that the world will end if you make a mistake.
You will make a mistake. There is no “if” about it.
But if you shrug it off and continue confidently, no one — least of all your listeners — will care.