The 5 Fatal Flaws of Public Speaking
We’ve all seen, and given poor presentations. It’s inevitable if you are involved in speaking on even at somewhat irregular basis. What is avoidable are the five worst mistakes that presenters make that doom their talks to being anxiety-ridden, boring, forgettable time-wasters. Avoid these mistakes, and you’re already ahead of the competition.
Public Speaking Fatal Flaw 1:
Overloading on Content
On a good day, your audience will only retain 5% of what you tell them. Despite this, presenters consistently cram too much information into their talks and their listeners tune out. As time ticks away, they move faster through their slides, grow more anxious and struggle to get through every word in their notes.
Before your talk, ask yourself this question: What do you really want your audience to walk away with? Once this message is clear, develop a few – not too many – supporting points to back up your message. Illustrate these with examples, stories, statistics, analogies, quotes and some good simple visual aids if you are using them.
Your audience can ask for more detail or clarification if they need it. Nine times out of ten, if you focus on making your points simple, crystal clear and memorable, you will be better off than trying to cover too much information in too little time. Best of all, you will stand out from the crowd.
Public Speaking Fatal Flaw 2:
It doesn’t matter how good your content is if your audience isn’t listening. Your job as a speaker, then, must be part informer and part entertainer. This means using humour, stories, analogies and audience involvement as much as possible.
The more interesting your talk, the better chance you have to connect with your audience, and that they will pay attention to you. Compile a list of interesting or funny anecdotes, quotes, headlines and jokes that you can use in your talks. A bit of focus on making you content interesting goes a long way.
Public Speaking Fatal Flaw 3:
Not speaking to individuals
If there is one message to take from this report, it’s this: Treat every presentation as a series of one-on-one conversations. Too many speakers look out at the audience, panning back and forth and never settling on anyone for more than a split second. The result is a nervous speaker, a frantic pace, and no connection.
Instead, slow down and spend an entire thought or sentence or phrase with one person. Then at a natural transition in your message, turn to someone else, look him or her in the eyes and talk to that person. Just as if you were having a conversation.
This one piece of advice has transformed more speakers than any other. It allows you to read your audience, connect with them, keep them engaged and relaxed. And it comes down to making eye contact with individuals.
Public Speaking Fatal Flaw 4:
Opening and closing poorly
The greatest irony about public speaking is that the two parts of the talk that people remember the best are the ones that nobody spends enough time preparing. People remember the last thing you say, then the first, and everything else is somewhat in the middle.
I never tell people to memorize an entire presentation. But I do coach them to know exactly how they will open and close their speech, pitch or presentation. Open with a hook to grab people’s attention. Use a story, a shocking statement or statistic or something that will catch them off guard. Then, not before, introduce yourself and your topic.
Close your talk after you handle the Q&A session. When you close, recall the main message of your speech and whatever action you want your audience to take. Then end strong. Your closing should be short and to the point. Whatever you do, be decisive, because whatever you say will be what your audience will have ringing in their heads as they leave the room.
Public Speaking Fatal Flaw 5:
The excuses for not practicing a presentation are endless: You can wing it. You do better unprepared. You know this stuff. You don’t have time etc.
The truth is that nothing will instil in you more confidence and poise when standing in front of an audience better that thorough preparation. This means practicing your talk out load several times. If you use slides, go through every bullet on every slide and rehearse what you are going to say. Each time you go through it, your talk will get better, tighter and more comfortable leaving your lips.
Do not practice in front of a mirror, you will not focus and it is a complete waste of time. My personal tip: Once you prepared your speech, slides and note cards, grab a camera and record yourself.