Whether you’re making a presentation in front of ten close colleagues at work or speaking to a crowd of twenty thousand, public speaking is nerve-wracking and anxiety-inducing. Even still, it’s a necessary skill to develop, and it’s one that will likely continue to come up throughout your career. The unfortunate truth of public speaking, though, is not that it’s stressful; it’s that we’re often taught all the wrong tactics for coping with that stress. For one thing, everyone has been told that you need to picture your audience in embarrassing, compromising situations to get over the awkwardness of public speaking. It’s time to unlearn that blunder—and so many others.

Classic Public Speaking Blunders Everyone Needs to Unlearn

Don’t Write a Script and Read From It  

In school, we were all taught to write out a script first and then either read from it or memorize it to the point that it no longer held meaning. Both tactics are incredibly harmful to the overall public speaking process. If you read from a script, you’re losing that basic human connection with your audience. But, if you focus on memorizing the speech, you lose that fundamental connection to the words you’re saying.

In order to unlearn these habits, you have to rehearse your speech to the point where you would be comfortable improvising. Improvisation is one of the most important skills you can develop in public speaking. Hone it well, and it will be your saving grace.

Don’t Make It About You; Make It About Them

It is so easy to make your speeches about yourself. You know yourself inside and out; you’re intimately familiar with your own experiences and worldview. But, frankly, your audience doesn’t care if they can’t apply your experiences to their own lives.

In crafting your speeches, be sure to keep your audience at the forefront of your mind. Make your speech about them, not you, and you may just be pleasantly surprised by how engaged and receptive they are.

Don’t Forget Your Reasons For Making Your Speech

Many public speakers get caught up in the art of public speaking itself. The problem with that it completely bypasses all the reasons you’re actually making the speech. If you root yourself in the intentions behind your speech, you’ll never make this public speaking blunder.

Stay focused, and you’ll win the hearts of those ten close colleagues—and some day, those of the twenty thousand fans in the crowd.