Public Speaking Means Never Saying “I’m Sorry”
In the romantic movie, “Love Story”, a phrase about love was introduced that went, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”. And while anyone who is married knows how untrue that is, we could easily adapt that concept to the world of public speaking. While you may from time to time have an occasion that you feel you should express regret to your audience, it’s a hard and fast rule of public speaking to never apologize to your audience.
The psychological principle behind this rule is solid and it’s not based just on ego. We are not putting this rule in place because you are infallible or to put out an image of the super speaker. The rule is grounded in the relationship between an audience and a public speaker that is well known and how you should create and use that chemistry to have success in your own public speaking career.
When a speaker gets up before a group, there are the assumptions that the crowd has about you. And they want to know that these things are true so they know they will be made to feel comfortable during your presentation. The core of those assumptions are….
. You are confident.
. You know what you are talking about.
. That you like them, are passionate about your subject matter and are genuinely happy to be there.
. You are comfortable in the public speaking role and
. They want to like you.
These assumptions are strongly ingrained into the psychology of a crowd and you can relate to them as you have listened to a speaker. If that speaker is at ease, relates to the crowd in a confident easy going way and is not easily “thrown” by the little things that happen during a talk, then you relax and in doing so, you are more open to what the speaker has to say.
Learning to react to issues that come up or to handle objections or perceived errors or weaknesses in your script is just part of becoming confident as a speaker You should become convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that that contract between you and your audience is more important even than any little problem that comes up. When you do have to adjust, lose your place or respond to a question that points to a flaw in your presentation, the real issue that is on trial here is not the problem or even how you answer. It is whether you can handle that problem with grace and poise and move on that makes the difference.
If you become flustered or violate that assumption that you are confident and you know what you are doing up there, you create insecurity in the audience. And that is the last thing they want to experience. An audience is a captive population and they know that. So they want to like you and be able to trust you to be their captain and safely guide them through to the other side, even if the trip is a bit bumpy along the way.
This is why an apology for a problem, a weakness in your material is a big mistake during a presentation. If a question surfaces a problem, far better to simply acknowledge it with “you know you bring up a good point. Let me research that and get back to you” rather than to apologize. That maintains your confidence as your ability to continue to be in leadership as you speak. And it makes the little problems that come up simply go away. When you have that skill, you will capture and maintain mastery of a public speaking situation. And that will guarantee your success.