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Public Speaking Failure? How to handle criticism like a pro!

It has been said that people fear public speaking more than death. Do you? I’m going to share a public speaking failure that (at first) left me questioning my abilities. I’ll tell you what I did to get through it and share three lessons you can learn from my experience. Public speaking criticism can really mess with your confidence so master these three tips today!

Public Speaking Criticism

Have you ever done your very very best at something, only to have somebody tell you afterward, that – in their mind – what you’ve done wasn’t very good at all? All of us in business, all of us who CREATE things, know it’s inevitable. We have an impossible time separating ourselves from our work because our work embodies who we are. As much as we want to tell ourselves our work is separate from us personally, that’s never the case.

I had an extremely important experience back in May of this year following a presentation. I do a lot of talks to a lot of groups – this is something I’m really comfortable doing – and I feel like I do a pretty good job. After this particular presentation in May, however, I received an email from a guy who said, “Hey, you know the presentation that I saw? It wasn’t very good, and in fact, the last one I saw that you did wasn’t very good either.”

This was a hard email to receive, but it taught me three valuable lessons.

You Can’t Please Everybody When You’re Public Speaking

Lesson #1 – I know this is cliché, but here cliché is good for a really good reason. The fact you can’t please everyone is really hard to reconcile with yourself when it comes to that criticism that you just received. Keep in mind: know that what it is you do IS NOT for everybody. The more you can segment your customer population – your audience you’re trying to serve – the better off you’ll be. So when you hear the inevitable criticism from somebody who said they didn’t like what you’ve done, you can simply say, “Hey, it’s not for you.”

After Receiving Criticism, Acknowledge It and Move On

Lesson #2 – How can you do this? How do you go about acknowledging criticism and then immediately moving on? I don’t want you to ignore the criticism. By that I mean – I don’t want you to just to put it on a shelf and leave it. Someone opened a door on your behalf, and I want you to close it.

So here’s the way I did that – I wrote him back and I said, “Hey thanks for your email. Good luck at what you’re doing.” So if he was trying to troll me, he was trying to get me engage in a conversation with him as a result of his criticism, he didn’t get that satisfaction. I ask you to do the same as well – acknowledge it and move on.

Persist With Public Speaking

Lesson #3  – Lesson number three is the most important because persistence is the hardest part. When somebody criticizes you, you have to reconcile with yourself, “Why are you’re doing what you do?” Unless you have really really thick skin – which, frankly, I don’t – it made me question, “Do I really enjoy doing this stuff?” I had to pause and say, “You know what?” I do. I love doing these things!

The vast majority of people from who’ve I’ve heard after my presentations have been both kind and grateful. They said that the time we spent together that day was beneficial to them, because they were able to understand something that they didn’t know before. So for me, that’s the biggest value.

People ask me all the time “Do you get nervous before you talk”? And the the answer is – of course! I want to do a good job so it’s especially hard to receive criticism. Before you give you next speech and presentation, I want to you to pause and think about not only why you are doing what you are doing, but also think of all those people that you had already served. Think of all those people that have let you know how much they’ve enjoyed what you’ve done.

Be sure that you persist with the activities you love. Be sure you keep doing those things that you enjoy, and even though you’ve opened yourself up to more criticism, know that you’re serving the vast majority of people in an awesome way.

If you have any ideas or any questions, please enter them into the comment sections below. Also, if you find my tips to be of value – sign up for my newsletter. Get tips, tricks, and videos sent straight to your inbox on topics that matter to you.

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About the Author

Spencer helps you save time through teaching digital marketing and social media strategies in plain English, after proving they actually work for himself and his company AmpliPhi first. He also is an instructor at the University of Wisconsin and Rutgers University.

Spencer X Smith

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  • Great post Spencer – I like to keep in mind criticisms originates from two places, love and hate (perhaps hate is a little harsh). When I receive criticism from my wife it’s usually spot on and valid, even though she will probably fail it’s nice to know she putting some effort into making me better. Criticism that comes from hate servers no purpose and should be treated as such.

    • Well said, Scott! We all can benefit from constructive advice (especially me), and you’re definitely right-on with the origins. I really appreciate your comment!

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