Bust these 4 public-speaking myths to sharpen your skills

As a public speaking coach who works with CEOs and top global business leaders, I hear many people repeat commonly-held beliefs that hold back their progress. These myths are popular but wrong.

Erase these four public-speaking myths from your mind (and vocabulary), and you’ll rapidly improve your self-confidence.

Myth #1: One Speaker Can Take Too Much Practice

There is no such thing as ‘too much’ exercise.

I have rarely heard a professional athlete say that they have practiced too much for one sport. Public speaking is also a skill. And any skill can be sharpened with practice.

Leaders who have built a reputation as great public speakers are representatives. Steve Jobs rehearsed every line, every gesture, and every demo for weeks before his now-famous product launch.

Great public speakers make it simple because they put in the effort to make it great.

Myth #2: Great speakers are ‘naturally gifted’

If you believe that others have a natural gift for public speaking, you are implying that you is not a gift.

Here’s the reality: Show me a ‘talented’ speaker, and I’ll show you a guy who devoted time (usually years) to hone his skills.

The myth of the gifted speaker is prevalent because we only see the end result or the speech or presentation that made him famous. We don’t see the years of dedication they put into building their skills.

For example, by the time Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his now famous ‘Dream Speech’ on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, he had already delivered more than 2,500 speeches or sermons. When he was in college, King spent hours in his dorm room reading the sermons of the day’s well-known preachers. He was trying to replicate their rhythm and delivery.

Great orators are made, not born.

Myth #3: You’ll Never Conquer Your Fear of Public Speaking

If you refute the belief it is a simple myth that can be dispelled.

While it is true that it is almost impossible to ‘conquer’ the butterflies you may feel before a speech or presentation, your goal should not be to eliminate the fear completely. Instead, great speakers learn to do manage Their anxiety turns it into positive energy to do their best when under pressure.

If you care about the quality of your performance, you’re likely to feel some nervousness before appearing in front of an audience. It’s okay because we’re trying hard not to feel anxious. Anthropologists say that we have a deep desire to be liked because our early ancestors who were rejected by their tribes did not live very long.

I’ve met TED speakers, billionaires and CEOs who were once afraid of public speaking but are today considered charismatic communicators. Once again, it comes down to putting in the time and more importantly, Knowledge By which you can increase your confidence.

Myth #4: Public speaking is a ‘soft’ skill

I’ll admit I’m still working on getting this phrase out of my vocabulary – and I’m a speaking coach.

Although public speaking is rooted in our interactions as a ‘soft’ skill, hard evidence suggests that public speaking ability is the most desirable skill to develop.

I remember the first time a famous venture capitalist debunked this myth. I met Geoff Ralston, president of seed accelerator Y Combinator (an early investor in Airbnb, DoorDash, Reddit and thousands of other startups). During our conversation, I called public speaking a “soft skill.” Ralston corrected me before ending the question. “You can call it ‘soft.’ I call it fundamental,” he said.

Ralston said that an entrepreneur may have a great idea, but if they can’t persuade investors, partners, and potential employees to join them, their startup won’t get off the ground.

Building confidence in public speaking has a lot to do with what you feed your mind. Start by busting these popular myths so that your ideas don’t get in the way of your success.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.