The 5 Biggest Mistakes Public Speakers Make
By Grant Ainsley | Tips | [comments] | Posted [date]
I recently had a longtime client call to tell me his company had a new CEO and he needed to improve his public speaking. The client asked if I could help him read his presentations better.
After a second of silence, I told the client I wasn't the guy for that. I told him, I can't make anyone read their presentations better, but I can make them better public speakers.
If people want to be better public speakers, they need to totally change the way they think about making presentations. Here are the five biggest mistakes they make.
#1. They Set Themselves Up for Failure
The second worst thing you can do when preparing to speak in public is write a speech and then try to stand in front of an audience and make it sound like you didn’t write it.
The worst thing you can do, is have somebody write a speech for you and then stand in front of an audience and try to make it sound like it wasn’t written for you.
Either way, without realizing it, you have been set up to fail. Unless you’re really good and experienced as a public speaker, there’s no way you can take a written speech and make it sound good. It will sound like you’re reading it and people don’t want to watch somebody stand in front of them and read. While you may think you’re doing the right thing by writing a long and detailed speech that covers all the points you want to make and includes some good writing, it’s extremely difficult to take those words off the page and use them to talk to people and not read to them.
Unless you’re a three-year-old, getting a bedtime story, people don’t want to be read to.
#2. They Don't Talk to People
You need to find a way to talk to people instead of reading to them. Take the plunge and try to do a presentation without using any notes.
Before you call me crazy, there’s a simple way to do this.
Use your slide deck to lead you through the presentation. The slide deck does more than convey information to your audience, it also reminds you of the key points you want to talk about in your presentation. As an example, when you’re doing a presentation about the way you’ve created a different culture in your organization and you show a slide with a photo of everyone in your company in front of your office, it’s a reminder to you to tell the story about how you hire people.
Don’t look at your presentation as something that’s 15-minutes long. Look at it as 12 slides that will each serve reminders to you of what you want to say.
When I work with organizations and executives, I go into detail to show them how to design their slide decks to make it work for them and lead them through their presentation. Designing the slide deck properly is critical.
#3. They Don't Tell Stories
One thing that sets good speakers apart from those who aren’t, is they tell stories during their presentations.
People love listening to good stories and they’re easier for us to relate, because we’ve told stories all our lives. For some reason though, when people prepare their presentation, they don’t include stories to illustrate their points. Maybe they think by telling stories it takes away from the professionalism of their presentation? It really is the opposite. Good stories lead to more professional presentations.
People will remember your stories much more than most of your information.
#4. They Don't Practice Correctly
Now you have your slide deck and a few stories to tell - what’s next? Now comes the hard part - you need to practice.
Here’s another area where people get it wrong. They spend 80% of their time writing their speech and 20% practicing. It should be the other way around.
Take your slide deck, stand in the privacy of your home or office and imagine giving the presentation to the audience you’re about to speak to. Then practice the presentation until you get it right.
Does it take time and effort? In a word – yes. There are no shortcuts. When I prepare to do a new presentation, I always practice until I get it right. Most good speakers do. There’s nothing wrong with stumbling and forgetting what you wanted to say when you practice. Nobody else knows except you. Your audience will get the benefit of your practice sessions.
The first presentation you do will generally take longer to prepare for and then you’ll get the hang of it.
#5. They Hide Behind the Podium
Far too often when people speak, they’re basically led to a podium with a microphone and told to speak there.
Good speakers don’t speak behind podiums.
Podiums, which actually should be called lecterns, put a barrier between you and the audience. Yes, they provide a good place to put your speaking notes on, but remember, you don’t use any notes. You talk to people, instead of reading to them.
Before you speak, let the organizer know you don’t want to speak behind the lectern – you want to speak beside it and you’ll need a wireless lapel microphone, if you’re in a larger room
You’ll also need a wireless presentation device (a remote) to allow you to advance your slide deck, so buy one and get used to using it when you practice. Bring your presentation on your laptop to ensure you don’t have a technical issue. If I hear the phrase “Just bring your presentation on a stick” again in the next ten years it’ll be too soon.
Now you’re set to talk to people instead of reading to them. Give it a try. You can do it.
If you want to give this a try...
I offer public speaking workshops for groups and one-on-one coaching. I show you everything from how to build your slide deck to ways to speak better in public than you ever have before. Just contact me through my website
to get started.