Take a look at any list out there and public speaking, among other so-called social phobias, ranks as one of America's most common fears. And no wonder. Getting up in front of a crowd involves risking rejection and embarrassment. But just because public speaking is inherently scary for lots of us, doesn't mean you aren't making the situation worse with your beliefs.

According to well know public speaking group Toastmasters, many of us not only fear public speaking, but also completely misunderstand it. Common misperceptions, the group insists, often make people's dread of public speaking worse than it would naturally be. And getting rid of these wrong ideas can help even the most reluctant speaker be more confident and convincing. Recently the group put out a release outlining five of the most widespread myths. Here they are:

1. Only 'naturals' can be good public speakers.

Hogwash. Public speaking is a skill not some mysterious gift of the universe and, with any skill, you get better by practicing. "Anyone can become a great public speaker," insists Toastmasters, citing Domino's Pizza founder Tom Monaghan as someone who originally struggled to get up in front of an audience but overcame his nerves through training and effort.

2. If you're good, you don't get nervous.

Even the most experienced and skilled speakers still get nervous. Toastmasters illustrates this with a Mark Twain quote: "There are two types of speakers in the world: 1) the nervous and 2) liars." Even Warren Buffett used to throw up before presentations. But, of course, nausea is not required. You can learn to feel in control of your nerves and productively channel your stress by starting with small groups and working up to larger challenges.

3. Introverts can't be good public speakers.

It's not only Toastmasters debunking this myth. Bestselling author Susan Cain has laid out the case that introverts can make excellent public speakers -- while also demonstrating this herself as a confident and effective introverted speaker.

4. You have to memorize your speech.

Award-winning speaker Patricia Fripp suggests another approach via Toastmasters: "You should not memorize your entire presentation, but rather your opening, key points, and conclusion. Then, rehearse enough so you can 'forget it.'" Though it should be noted that other celebrated speakers, like Malcolm Gladwell, do memorize their talks, so techniques seem to vary on this one.

5. A good speech is all in the words.

Nope, movement and performance matter a ton. "The best speeches and TED Talks are often movement-based. When it works for your presentation, walking around and using hand gestures can give your speech a relaxed conversational style," claims Toastmasters, which offers the example of former NBA player Mark Eaton, who "often felt inhibited by his towering 7-foot-4-inch frame until he learned how to use gestures and movement in his speeches."

Did you believe any of these public speaking myths?

Published on: Nov 3, 2015