By Dorothea Stuart of Toastmasters International
Are you a dreadful public speaker? Unfortunately far too many people in business really don’t cut the mustard when it comes to public speaking. And yet, being able to present your business in a clear and engaging way is essential if you are to succeed.
We should all ask ourselves if we commit any of the dreadful public speaking sins listed below. If the answer is yes, then take steps to improve! Your business, and your audience, will thank you!
1. You become the invisible man or woman
If you stand in front of your audience reading the content of densely packed slides you will become invisible.
Key lesson: Use simple visual aids to support your points and make yourself visible.
2. The audience is bothering you
I watched as a speaker walked to the stage, looked at his audience and let out a huge sigh. He made the audience members feel they had caused him a big problem by turning up.
Key lesson: Remind yourself why your audience needs to hear from you and stride up looking confident.
3. You like to fly by the seat of your pants
It’s a solid fact that powerful public speakers prepare and practice. Being adaptable is positive. However, lack of preparation means you’re most likely to ramble and confuse your listeners.
Key lesson: give yourself time to prepare and practice
4. You want to share 100 fascinating facts
If you pack in too much your audience simply won’t be able to take it all in.
Key lesson: adopt a “less is more” approach. Focus on a few relevant facts and make them memorable.
5. Your love standing in front of an audience
Perhaps you love speaking in public too much. You may be extrovert and charming but if you overrun your allotted speaking time no one will thank you.
Key lesson: Show your love by considering your audience’s needs and stick to time.
6. Your utterances are mutterances
If you run your words together, trail off at the end of sentences, speak too quietly, or are monotonous you are one of the speakers audiences dread. It’s time to start articulating clearly, bringing energy into your voice, and remember that everyone in the room needs to hear you.
Key lesson: Listen to recordings of your speeches, notice the patterns and take corrective action. If it’s really bad consider having some voice coaching.
7. You shout at your audience
You can be too loud. In a small room this can make the audience feel as if they’re being shouted at or even pushed towards the back wall by the pressure of the sound. You can also come across as bullying or hectoring.
Key lesson: Adapt and vary your volume to fit the size of the space and for the sake of your audience’s ears.
8. You’re talking to the wrong audience
You’ve forgotten to check who will be in the audience. You can talk about leadership to teens but should you use the examples and stories that you used at the Rotary Club or a Finance Directors conference?
Key lesson: do your homework and focus on your audience.
9. You haven’t done your research
Do you know what the previous speaker’s subject is and what he has said? Words that an audience fear include “As Sara has already said…” “I was going to tell you about…. but er.., um… you’ve heard it from John so…I’ll just skip the next 10 slides.”
Key lesson: Co-ordinate with other speakers.
10. You forget you’re in front of an audience
You talk to the slides forgetting the people behind you. You nervously claw at your neck, you absent-mindedly scratch [I’ll leave where to your imagination], you start to talk to someone in the front row and turn your presentation into a private conversation. You’ve forgotten that public speaking is a performance.
Key lesson: Watch yourself on video to notice how you perform and wean yourself off unhelpful habits.
Public speaking is a key business skill, so take steps to overcome the reasons that get in the way of good public speaking – and you’ll quickly go from dreadful to distinguished.