Posts Tagged ‘public speaking mistakes’

Public Speaking: Fact or Myth?

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

1. Eye contact should last about 3 seconds before moving on to next person.

Myth. Many courses on public speaking teach this technique. The problem is that it makes you look superficial. Instead, vary the duration of eye contact with each individual. Sometimes you will make a point to an individual that might last eight seconds. Just be sure to avoid the “stalker stare”.

2. Keep a formal demeanor when presenting.

Myth. I’m not saying be unprofessional, but most speakers appear as if they are giving a eulogy, which is bad . . . unless they really are. Your audience wants to see some personality; so don’t be afraid to be yourself.

3. It is imperative to stay within your allocated time.

Fact. This is probably “more true” than most speakers realize. There are few things that will make your audience resent you more than going past your time. Conversely finishing a bit early will earn you a great deal of appreciation.

4. Speak from the lectern/podium.

Myth. The lectern is a barrier between you and your audience. Perhaps this is comforting to you, but it doesn’t work for your audience. Get out from behind the lectern and you will outshine the other speakers by connecting directly with your audience.

5. Avoid fillers, “ums” and “ahs”.

Myth. Most speaking courses tell you to watch out for those filler words. Some even have the audience count them as you speak. This is counterproductive. The worst thing to tell someone to do before they present is to avoid saying “um”. The fact is that they will say it much more when they make an effort to avoid it. It’s like telling someone, “hey don’t think of a monkey”.

6. Dress at least as formal as your audience.

Fact. While many presenters are overly formal in speech, they sometimes underdress, which can be misconstrued as lack of respect by their audience. Always ask the organizer upfront how people will be dressed.

7. It’s okay to read from your slides because everyone does it.

Myth. Well, yes, almost everyone reads from their slides, but that doesn’t mean that your audience doesn’t greatly dislike it. It’s okay if the slide guides you, for example a ONE WORD bullet point to get you in the right direction is ok. Avoid long phrases and sentences.

8. If you’d liked this blog, you can help me by hitting one the buttons below to share.

Fact.  I would be much obliged.

Take a look at our upcoming full-day public speaking training in Worcester, Mass.

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Public Speaking: 19 Deadly Delivery Mistakes

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

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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Public Speaking: The Right Way to Use PowerPoint

Monday, May 4th, 2009

dreamstime_3267878[1]It seems the majority of presenters love to use PowerPoint to help them with their presentations. As discussed in previous posts, PowerPoint is an easy crutch that enables the speaker to read directly off the slides, and it helps divert audience attention from the speaker to the screen. This can take the pressure off the presenter, as nobody is looking at him/her and there is no chance of forgetting anything (it’s all up there on the screen).

Oddly, the presenters who use this tactic don’t realize that they are giving the audience exactly what they don’t want – a boring presentation at which they are being read to. My first suggestion is to avoid PowerPoint entirely – if possible. Your audience will be refreshed and they will appreciate YOU!

That said, I’ve used Keynote (Mac’s version of PowerPoint) and it has added to the impact of my presentation. Here is why:

1) I never read anything off the screen (except for a quote).

2) I usually show a picture (stock or custom photography) that underscores a point I’ve made.

3) Embedding a SHORT and relevant video clip can really wow them.

4) A simple graph that makes a single point can clarify.

5) A relevant and humorous cartoon can add a nice touch to your presentation.

Audiences loathe seeing numbers and words on PowerPoint. They love to see pictures, graphs and quick videos.

Presenters love to see words and numbers on PowerPoint because it protects them from having to memorize and shields them from audience attention.

As a presenter, you need to make a mutually-exclusive choice. Do you do what is easiest for you or your audience?

More on public speaking and PowerPoint.

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Public Speaking: Handling Blunders

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

What to do when things go wrong public speaking?  We all make mistakes – especially those of us who take calculated risks.  Sometimes we fall flat on our face when we present.

As promised in my last blog, I will share with you my experience of going out on a limb and crashing to the ground.

I was public speaking at a networking event: our Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting.  I was asked to talk a bit about the power of persuasion; so I thought it would be fun to do three effects that illustrate how we can influence others.  In my experience, I hit these demonstrations 98% of the time, and they are impressive because they really depend on the interaction between me and my audience members.  

The first demo, which was an optical perception effect always works – no problem.  But the second, which I was influencing another person to “randomly” select a color, completely failed.  I understand why it happened, and I’m confident it won’t happen again . . . but, there I was before 80 of my peers with a demo gone awry.

It was quiet.  How do I handle this?

1) I reminded the audience that this was not a “trick” but real psychology at play.  

2) Then, I used the fact that I missed to INCREASE the intensity level.  I said to the audience, “now, there can be no option for failure on my next demonstration; in fact, if I fail I will breakdance right here at the center of the dance floor, because nobody is leaving here without being entertained.”  This broke the tension and created laughter.

Ultimately the final and most “impossible” demo worked (thank God).  I received an enthusiastic applause and as Shakespeare says “all is well that ends well.”

At the end of my presentation, a potential Chamber Member and national speaker approached me and asked to buy my CD on the Power of Persuasion.  That felt good.

Here is what I learned: Taking risks is important if you are going to grow, but putting the riskier material in the middle makes a great deal of sense.  Put your solid material at the beginning and end because that is what people remember most.

Whenever you fall on your face, get up, and if necessary make a quick acknowledgement, then move on as if nothing happened.   A blunder shows the audience that you are human, but how you handle it can make you even stronger than if the blunder had never occurred.  Use it to your advantage.

Handling public speaking blunders is never easy, just try to make it LOOK easy by keeping your composure and you’re audience will appreciate your poise.

p.s. Yes, had I missed the second demo, I would have doffed the coat and tie and provided old-school break dancing entertainment.

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Public Speaking: Guidelines NOT Rules

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Never say ummm, stand in a fixed position with arms at sides for first 15 seconds of presentation, use open gestures, don’t pace, don’t fidget, speak loudly . . . and the list of “rules” goes on and on.

In the Target Intellect Blog on Public Speaking, we share a great deal of helpful tips on presenting with impact.  In this blog entry, I’d like to clarify that these tips are merely guidelines; not rules.

A close friend of mine and I made the distinction of rules vs. guidelines when learning professional entertainment skills.  In some cases a magical effect that seemed to break many of the fundamental “rules” of good entertainment, still knocked the socks of the audience.  In those cases, we through the rules out the window and only worried about audience reaction.

A few weeks ago I witnessed a sales trainer who truly connected with her audience.  Her energy and enthusiasm were incredible.  I also noticed that she failed to use enough pauses, she spoke too fast, she said “um” a great deal, BUT despite all the pecadillos, the audience LOVED her.  Why?  She genuinely cared about the audience and established rapport with them through her passion and sincerity.

Granted, not many presenters can carry off the “what you see is what you get” approach and earn rave reviews as she did.  But there is a small lesson to keep in mind.  When reading the professional blogs about any discipline, there are very few golden rules, most are simply excellent guidelines.

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Public Speaking: How To Lose Your Audience

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

Q: What is possibly the worst feedback you can get about your presentation?

A: Audience members get up and leave before you’ve closed.

I just attended an NSA New England event. It’s a great organization, and I’ve personally benefited from their speakers.  The first two presenters of the day delivered a great deal of value within a little time. Fran Goldstein enlightened us about the power of virtual assistants; and Steve Lishansky gave us a great framework for value-based pricing.

The main speaker, however, inadvertently taught us a invaluable lesson on exactly how to lose your audience.

The session was supposed to have delivered a great deal of content, but after the first two hours, attendees at my table were all looking at one another with puzzled faces.  The speaker spent a majority of this time on SELLING THE BENEFITS of what he was “about to cover”.  WOW!

Indeed, five minutes up front to extol the virtues of the upcoming content would have been great, but the presenter was incessantly preaching to the already converted.

About ninety minutes into the presentation, an attendee from another group stood up and said “with all due respect, you said you were going to cover all this material, and I have my concerns of how you are now going to fit it all in.”  The presenter responded that it was a fair concern, but nothing really changed.

During the second part of the session, I walked out.  It wasn’t the skipping around through unpaginated notes that drove me crazy;  it was the excruciatingly poor time/value ratio.  As a fellow professional presenter, I felt badly about walking out, but I needed to leave so I could blog the experience.

Shortly thereafter, others began to leave (before the close).  I let them share their opinions with me first, and the consensus was that they just couldn’t sit through any more.

What happened?  What can we learn from this?

I’ve seen this occur to a lesser degree when a presenter either has too much or (more often the case) too little content to fit the time slot.  Couple this with poor organization of notes and it’s all over before it ever begins.

When we present we need to keep in mind that many people are gifting us two precious resources: time and attention.  In the case the audience was also paying to attend.

Here are some tips on how to lose your audience:

1) Extend your introduction by over-selling your content.

2) Stretch your time by over-using anecdotes.

3) Bounce around your unpaginated notes.  If they ask where you are, simply respond: “a few pages from the back”; they’ll eventually find you.

If you don’t want to lose your audience:

Subscribe to the philosophy that every minute of your presentation is of vital importance.  If you waste 2 minutes before a fifty-person audience; you’ve lost over an hour and a half of people’s time. A couple of years back at a NSA New England event, Susan Keane Baker executed one of the best presentations I’d ever witnessed.  She made every minute count, she delivered in a way that everyone present received far more value than expected.  She inspired all of us to be better.

Driven by that philosophy, you can proceed with confidence that you will avoid the dreaded fate of losing your audience while public speaking.

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