Seven Speaking Mistakes Your Audience Won’t Forgive You For
Most presenters have had the same nightmare – the one where they are about to give a big presentation when they suddenly realize they are totally naked! If this were to actually happen in the real world, and you were to actually walk on stage without any clothes on, the audience would indeed think it a big mistake.
But, believe it or not, there are even bigger mistakes a presenter can make that audiences would find more difficult to forgive.
Not Being Prepared
The best presenters make giving speeches look effortless. Steve Jobs was someone who made it seem as if he just walked onto the stage and started talking. In reality, he prepared for each presentation for weeks.
You can never be “too” prepared so start early and work on it a little bit each day. Intense preparation not only helps you craft the best presentation; it also helps you alleviate presentation jitters. When you know your material inside and out, you are less likely to feel anxious and more excited to share your message,
Neglecting to Familiarize Yourself with the Venue and Equipment
Imagine if a restaurant owner opened her doors 15 minutes before the dinner crowd was about to arrive. It was then she discovered she was out of butter and most of the vegetables and the air conditioner wasn’t working. Her patrons would most likely walk out upon hearing the news and quite possibly never come back.
Do not be the presenter who shows up a half hour before they are to go on stage. What do you do when you notice your laptop or projector won’t work? What if you imagined you’d be on a large stage and you discover you are instead in small multi-purpose room without a stage or podium.
To avoid potential disasters, ensure you give yourself enough time to check out the venue and make sure all of your equipment is working properly.
The whole point of giving a presentation is to share information with others, so it should go without saying that you must be certain you are sharing only relevant information with your audience.
How do you know what information will be relevant? You must first do some research on your audience. What do they already know about your topic? What issues or problems do they face? What are they hungry to learn?
When developing your speech, try and think about your topic from your audience’s point of view.
Saying More When Less Would Suffice
Being passionate about your topic is wonderful, but not to the point that you go on and on and on about it. Short, concise presentations tend to land better with an audience. Try to limit your talking points to your strongest ones.
When developing your speech, jot down the information you want to share and plan on how you will get your points across. Throughout this process always as yourself, “Does my audience really need to know this?”
Speaking Too Fast
New presenters are often guilty of rushing through their speech as if they had a train to catch. These presenters haven’t quite grasped the fact that regular speech, the kind we use every day with our friends and family, is simply too quick to get your ideas to land.
A great way to know whether you are guilty of fast talking is to videotape one of your presentations. You may be surprised at how fast you’re actually talking. Seeing yourself from your audience’s point of view is a great way to become aware of a potential problem.
Speaking quickly can also be the result of nerves. Besides being fully prepared, which I previously mentioned, it’s a good idea to calm and center yourself before your presentation by doing some deep breathing exercises.
And finally, if at any point during your presentation you feel yourself beginning to rush, simply pause, take a deep breath, and continue.
Avoiding Eye Contact
Avoiding eye contact with your audience is a surefire way to get them to tune out and perhaps even fall asleep during your presentation. Imagine having a one-on-one conversation with someone who never looked at you! Although you are speaking in front of a large audience, your goal is to make each member feel you are speaking just to them. A great way to help this feeling along is to continually scan the audience, allowing your eyes to land on one individual before moving on to the next, and the next, and the next.
Remember the teachers you liked and the ones you didn’t back in high school? Chances are your least favorites were the teachers who were just plain ol’ dull. They stood up at the chalkboard, never moved around, never changed the tone or volume of their voice. Overall they just seemed not very interested in their own lesson.
Then you had those teachers that were funny and moved around the whole room, they just seemed really excited about the lesson they were presenting.
Your audience is more likely to forgive you for all of the above mistakes I’ve listed than they are if you’re BORING. So, emulate your favorite teachers and move around the stage, play with the level of your voice – bringing it down to almost a whisper and then getting very loud. Be funny, tell stories, have passion for your topic.
Compared to these 7 mistakes, showing up naked is very forgivable, so do your best to avoid these at all costs.