Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

First, let's be clear, I'm talking about everyday meetings as well as the bigger occasions.

Have the courage to be imperfect.

Such a simple idea. So effective. I'm getting emails from attendees at my presentation skills workshops saying things like, "You're right. It really is okay to make a mistake!"

How revealing that surprised response is. It shows how our speaking nerves whisper insidiously in our ear: You must not make a mistake. You must not get your words wrong, lose track, push the wrong button, etc etc. You must be perfect.

Rubbish. The best presenters don't hear that voice. They simply don't care if they make a mistake. They just get on with it, or they just grin and get on with it. New Zealand's best known weather forecaster Jim Hickey is a fine example... lots of stumbles and glitches, lots of credibility.

Here's the secret.

The problem is almost never the mistake, it's how you feel about the mistake

Think about that. Your audience doesn't care unless you make them care by worrying about it. I love the irony of that. The audience is way more attuned to your embarrassment (they hate it) than any mistake. They'll invariably put a mistake-relaxed presenter way ahead of a mistake-worried presenter.

No one is perfect. Our audiences know that. So why let our nervous inner voice get away with that nonsense about making no mistakes?

Never apologize for a little mistake

The audience already knows if you're uncomfortable in their presence; they don't like it, so why rub their faces in it? And never commit the speaker's crime of apologizing for your lack of speaking ability in advance; that simply begs the audience to judge you by a lower standard. They will.

What about a big mistake?

Well, by all means apologize, but do so without embarrassment - you are bigger than any one mistake - then correct it and move on.

It's time. Choose to have the courage to be imperfect. Your audience may not know why they enjoy your presentation so much more... but they will.

Enjoy your speaking. Be comfortable with your audience and they will be comfortable with you.

Acknowledgement. I want to thank Brene Brown (no relation), a research professor at Houston University, renowned for her groundbreaking work on vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame. That wording 'Have the courage to be imperfect' is hers. Want to see more of her? Here she is speaking of The Power of Vulnerability.


About Michael Brown

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Michael is a senior trainer with Skillset, based in Christchurch.

He is a leading authority on training in presentation and news media skills in New Zealand. He has special expertise in how to present emotionally charged topics to challenging audiences. Michael has trained thousands of New Zealanders and worked with people who speak on behalf of some of the country's largest organisations.

Michael is a prolific author and his books on speaking and working with the media are in their fourth editions.

Speaking Easy: how to speak to your audiences with confidence and authority

Media Easy: how to handle the news media with confidence and authority

One of Michael's books is about his family's adventures sailing in the Pacific.

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