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Article Title:
Stop Trying to Be Perfect

Article Description:
When I provide speech coaching for executives and when I direct 
Presentation Skills seminars for corporations, one of the first 
points I make is this: Trying to be perfect will ruin your 

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Distribution Date and Time: Tue May  2 22:38:51 EDT 2006

Written By:     Bill Lampton Ph.D.
Copyright:      2006
Contact Email:  mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED]

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Stop Trying to Be Perfect
Copyright © 2006 Bill Lampton Ph.D.
Championship Communication

When I provide speech coaching for executives and when I direct 
Presentation Skills seminars for corporations, one of the first 
points I make is this:

Trying to be perfect will ruin your presentation.

Why? First: People want to deal with human beings, not flawless 
robots. To illustrate: When you hear a speaker who is oh-so-
precise with enunciation, so programmed with canned gestures and 
so fluent without a single blunder, you might react negatively. 
You sense that you are observing an actor, not a real person. 

A prominent example you might be familiar with: Bill Kurtis, 
executive producer and host of three award-winning shows on the 
Arts and Entertainment network-- Investigative Reports, Cold 
Case Files and American Justice. Although Kurtis has garnered 
widespread acclaim during his four decades of broadcast 
journalism, I never watch him without thinking "That's a planned 
gesture," "He decided ahead of time to take a step forward after 
that sentence," or "He rehearsed the inflection he used in that 

He's highly successful, yes, so there is no doubt he has 
satisfied millions of viewers. Even so, I wouldn't recommend him 
as a role model for speakers I am coaching. Kurtis represents a 
level of stiltedness that borders on stuffiness, in my judgment. 

Knowing this should encourage you to loosen up, and let people 
see you "warts and all," as the saying goes. They will know they 
are hearing the authentic you.

Second: The quest for perfection creates a damaging perspective. 
I'll bet you have looked back on events that, at that time, 
seemed so critical for your professional success --your report to 
board members, your explanation of why your company had voted to 
merge, or your quarterly pep talk to your sales force. You feared 
that less than a perfect performance would jeopardize your job 
and profession. 

What really happened, though? During the speech, you lost your 
place once or twice, stumbled over a phrase, and misstated a fact 
you had to correct. To your surprise, the results were not so 
dire after all. You accomplished your goal. Although you 
performed at 80-85% of your potential, that was good enough. 
So if you had berated yourself during the speech for your 
imperfection, you might have slipped to a dismal 50% skill level.

Author Mark Twain became a renowned lecturer, appearing across 
the globe-New York, London, Hawaii, Venice, Berlin, Melbourne and 
Calcutta. Still, he suffered many embarrassing moments onstage, 
with large audiences witnessing his gaffes. The first time he 
tried to lecture, his memory-and nerves-failed him. For two 
minutes, he and his listeners endured an agonizing span of 
silence before he could start speaking. Periodically, he 
experienced other platform failures. Fortunately, he accepted his 
imperfection, maintained a beneficial sense of proportion, and 
moved on to the next performance with his confidence intact.

Like Twain, we can recover from those occasions when the words 
just wouldn't come out, or came out wrong. Our career will move 
along without a hiccup. 

Third: If you try to be absolutely perfect with every speech you 
give or with every meeting you direct, your preparation will move 
so slowly that you will get very little accomplished with your 
other responsibilities.

My advice: Prepare rapidly, without fear of blunders. Then review 
your outline to check the organization, facts, illustrations, and 
predicted length. Not only will you get more done, you will work 
more creatively because you are not hamstrung by inordinate fear.

Fourth: Too much preparation for a presentation might reduce your 
enthusiasm. By the time you stand up to address an audience, you 
have re-outlined, rewritten, rehearsed, and performed so much 
wordsmithing that you have lost the zest you felt when you 
selected your topic. 

Audiences want "The Illusion of the First Time," a phrase 
borrowed from theatre. When an audience sees the curtain rise, 
the actors must give the impression that this is the first time 
they have thought these thoughts, said these words and gestured 
like that, even when the cast has presented the same play dozens 
or possibly hundreds of times. Similarly, your audience wants to 
believe "this is a live performance." They want to sense your 
energy and enthusiasm.

Fifth: Keep in mind that our imperfection is what makes life 
interesting, challenging, and rewarding. Business mogul Donald 
Trump hasn't done everything right. Some of his casinos have 
plunged into bankruptcy. Tiger Woods went three years without 
winning a major golf tournament, prior to winning the 2005 
Masters. Martha Stewart left her domestic empire to serve jail 

To sum up: Be real, don't dwell on your mistakes, reserve time 
for your other duties while you are crafting your speech, 
avoid emotional burnout, and accept imperfection as a normal 
circumstance.  Your audiences will love the results, and 
so will you.

Bill Lampton, Ph.D., helps organizations improve their 
communication, motivation, sales and customer service. 
His speeches, seminars, consulting and coaching share the 
advice included in his book, The Complete Communicator: 
Change Your Communication, Change Your Life! Visit his Web 
site and sign up for his complimentary monthly newsletter:  Call Dr. Lampton 
at: 770-534-3425 or 800-393-0114.



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