Public Speaking: 19 Deadly Delivery Mistakes

July 11th, 2009 by Frank Damelio

lecternPublic speaking can be the most daunting task because we make it so. No doubt you’ve heard that according to surveys, most people are more afraid of public speaking than death. Of course the major reason is that we are concerned about how others will perceive us.

The truth is that when we engage in public speaking we shape many people’s perceptions about us in a very short time. In many instances, perception dictates reality; so it is important for us to shine in the spotlight.

When people say they are afraid of public speaking, usually they are talking about their delivery more than their content. Clearly both are important, but most people feel in control when it comes to mastering their content for a presentation. They are more worried about how they will appear before their audience.  In the realm of public speaking, we call this delivery. In our public speaking blog we’ve covered much material on this topic. Here is a summary of 19 delivery mistakes:


1. Standing right next to the person introducing you. Instead, wait far off to the side.

2. Walking too fast to center stage/floor. Instead, a moderate pace will transmit authority and confidence.

3. Launching immediately into your presentation. Instead, pause a moment and scan your audience and then deliver your power opener.

4. Not shaking the person’s hand who introduced you.

5. Not publicly thanking the person who introduced you.

6. Not smiling, but don’t force it either. The only thing worse than a somber face is the fake public speaking “chucky” smile.

7. Standing in one spot during your entire presentation.

8. Pacing is worse than standing in one spot. A quick tip on effective movement: give 1/3 of the presentation to the center, 1/3 to the left and 1/3 to the right. Always start and finish center.

9. Standing behind the lectern is deadly. GET OUT OF THERE.

10. Reading off slides is probably the #1 way to turn off your audience. Most public speakers do it.

11. Monotone voice is a cure for insomnia. Instead, record your presentation to ensure you’re injecting enthusiasm.

12. Filler is killer. “Umms”, “ahhs” and “like” will destroy your impact not only in public speaking, but also in one-on-one communication. Instead use the pause.

13. Talking too fast. People can’t process as fast as you can talk. It makes you appear not only nervous but lacking authority as well.

14. Poor eye contact is a major challenge with most public speakers.

15. Speaking softly. If you want to aggravate your audience make them strain to hear you.

16. Petrified body. A talking statue amuses nobody. Catch yourself talking to friends.  What does your body language look like? That’s what your audience wants to see.

17. Petrified face. The audience’s face mirrors yours. If you speak with a frozen countenance, you’ll be looking into a sea of expressionless faces. When you tell a story to a friend, your facial expressions accent the words. Do the same when public speaking.

18. Awkward close. Remember nerves spike at the beginning and end. I’ve seen great public speakers fumble to close. Remember your closing rote.

19. Being too conservative. Unless you’re presenting to the board at a stodgy bank, put some fun into your presentation. Most presentations are painful to endure. A dash of sugar will make them love you.

If you avoid these 19 common delivery mistakes, your audience won’t care whether you are nervous because they will like you and appreciate that you gave them an experience instead of a boring book report. You will shine in comparison to the public speakers who precede and follow you, because it’s almost guaranteed that these other presenters fall victim to most of the 19 deadly delivery mistakes.

There you have it! Now pounce on your fear of presenting, and use these delivery skills to enjoy the art of public speaking.

Learn more about our public speaking training program here.

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11 Responses to “Public Speaking: 19 Deadly Delivery Mistakes”

  1. robert fineberg Says:

    You step up on a podium and speak from behind a lectern. A podium is not a lectern.

  2. Frank Damelio Says:

    Nifty clarification Robert. I researched it here:
    Will make the change. Stay tuned for more.

  3. Steve Green Says:

    You hit the nail on the head. When you watch top celebrity speakers in action, they have worked out all these kinks – not by accident, but rather by watching themselves on tape and addressing each of the issues one by one.

    That’s what I love about lists like this – they let you compartmentalize your thinking and really addressed issues in an organized way!

    Keep it up!


  4. Frank Damelio Says:


    Thanks so much for you kind words and for your comment! I appreciate the encouragement!



  5. Target Intellect Blog » Public Speaking Special Delivery Says:

    […] Make your presentation a performance by avoiding these deadly public speaking mistakes. […]

  6. Laura Briere Says:

    Frank, as always, your advice is dead on. I’ll be sharing this with my friends. How many do you think I’m guilty of? I value your opinion!

  7. Doris Klietmann Says:

    I just love the article – it is so true. I found myself “guilty” of having made some of the “Deadly Delivery Mistakes”.
    Thanks so much for your advice – you are always on top of things.

  8. Lee Foshay Says:

    Excelent reminder, you obviously have seen me present…
    Kind regards

  9. Kenneth A. Jones Says:

    HI Frank,

    Great info and glad Pat forwarded it to me. I saw Dave P. (Bug Man) the other day and said what a great job you did at the home show. Just starting to get into Voice Over work and having fun with it. You can hear my Demo on the web site.

  10. Frank Damelio Says:

    Glad you enjoyed the tip! I’ll certainly check out your demo.

  11. Frank Damelio Says:

    Thanks for the note Lee, and it was great working with you in DC!

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