Public Speaking Fears: People Misunderstand What I’m Saying

I’m really passionate about becoming a motivational speaker, but what I’m usually afraid of is that people misunderstanding the message that I’m trying to convey. Can you explain more on how to overcome this?

I think all public speakers have that fear, whether they are beginners or pros. Personally, I think it is a good fear to have because it keeps you careful. But, when it’s not in check, this fear can be paralizing and it can stop you from doing the things that you want to do.

So I think as with any fear, the first thing to do is to face it.

1. Embrace the risk.

Accept the fact that there will always be a possibility that people misunderstand you. Don’t delude yourself by thinking that you will make it perfect every time. That’s not going to happen. You’re a human being and your audience are human beings, and there’s no human relationship where there is no misunderstanding occurring at some point in that relationship.

Of course, the more you practice, gain feedback, and improve, the more you’ll be able to avoid further misunderstandings. But still, even the pros can have this problem. So really, it will be easier just to accept your imperfections than to deny them.

Having said that, you are not free from responsibility and you are responsible for what is within your control.

2. Focus on what you can control.

Misunderstanding can come from at least two sources, the audience and you, the speaker.

Misunderstanding that comes from the audience is something that you can’t control.

Sometimes misunderstanding happens because the audience is selective in listening to you, or perhaps the audience is emotional, or perhaps the audience doesn’t take context into consideration.

Again, this is beyond your control.

It is possible that you could be crystal clear in your speech, but people can still misunderstand you because they don’t listen to you properly. So it is the audience’s responsibility to listen well to the speaker.

Communication is a two-way street. Both the speaker and the audience have their own responsibility that they need to fulfil in order for the communication to be effective.

So, what’s your responsibility as the speaker? You are responsible for what you can control.

Misunderstanding that comes from you is something that you can control.

It will either come from what you say, how you say it, or both.

What you say refers to the content. There’s really only two things I want to say about content:

You need to focus on what you know and understand. Don’t try to talk about something you don’t fully grasp, just because you want to appear knowledgable. Don’t fall for the trap. It is better to admit that you don’t know, then to make something up just to impress people. Sooner or later, it is going to come back and bite you.

You need to clarify the keywords that you are using, especially when those words can have multiple meanings. So make sure define the specific keywords you are using so as to remove any ambiguity in your talk. This is why in debates, you always begin with definitions.

How you say it refers to your approach. Different kinds of audience require different approaches in how you say things. You are required to adapt your approach and style according to your audience, and not the other way around. You could be saying the same thing, but when you use two different approaches, you can get two different outcomes.

So make sure you understand who are the people in front of you. This requires flexibility, creativity, and awareness of people.


1. Embrace the risk, because running away from it won’t solve the problem.
2. Focus on what you can control, because you are only responsible for that and that alone.

That’s it. I hope that helps!

So what’s stopping you from speaking up? Do you face any internal obstacles when it comes to English speaking, public speaking, speaking in an interview, or speaking in a class? Let me know in the comment section below.