Have you ever been bored rigid by a conference speaker? How can you avoid that fate if you have to give a talk? Here are the worst sins that public speakers commit so you can be sure not to make these same mistakes.
The first impression that you make on the stage is very important. It should be positive and animated. Many speakers make a feeble start. They look down and mumble their first words or worse, they make an apology. The audience wants you to succeed, they want you to be professional, informative and entertaining, so meet their expectations.
Slides can be useful – especially for showing charts or images. But many speakers load up their presentation with too many slides containing too many words. The speaker then reads the slide and the audience reads it as well, not looking or paying attention to the speaker. This is what’s known as, ‘death by PowerPoint.”
Often speakers try to cover too much ground and overload the audience with data. There are many different messages but there is no clear theme. Ideally your talk should have one central idea and your talk should have a structure that communicates the idea. For example, you might start by talking about a problem, you might tell a story, you might propose a solution then you might end with a call to action – something you want the audience to do.
Many talks are crammed full of facts, data, charts and statistics with no stories. With no stories that people can relate to, the presentation is dull and the audience will get bored. Include a story or two that people can relate to in order to keep their interest. For example, if you want to improve customer service, do not drone on about the percentage of net recommenders. Tell a story about someone who gave great service, describe them and the situation and make the story come alive.
A speaker who lacks enthusiasm cannot generate enthusiasm in the audience. Many speakers deliver their content in a dreary monotone voice, reading dry statements from a script and putting the audience to sleep. Your job as a speaker is to inform and entertain. Look the audience in the eye and speak from the heart, walk about the stage (but not too much) and vary your voice – pitch, speed of delivery and volume. Try to include some humor or something interesting and unusual; but keep it relevant to the topic.
A big mistake is to make the talk about you, your company, your issues and your achievements. The audience is interested in their problems so you have to make your talk about them. If you give examples about your company, then draw out larger issues and lessons that are relevant and useful to your listeners. Count how many times you say ‘I’ or ‘we’ and count how many times you say ‘you.’
Many speakers make elementary mistakes on stage. They struggle with the equipment, their slides are out of order or it’s clear they haven’t rehearsed. Before you speak, practice your talk so that you can be confident about every aspect of it. On the day of the event, you should check all the equipment on stage and be familiar with all the logistics.
This is a sin that many speakers commit. Event organizers and audiences do not appreciate a speaker who overruns his allotted time. Worse still, the speaker compounds the error by rushing towards the end to cram in all his remaining slides. If you have a 45 minute slot, then practice a talk that fits comfortably into 40 minutes. That way you can end the talk in a strong, confident manner and take the time to really deliver your key message, If you have time over, you can always offer to take questions.
Practice your talk and deliver it with confidence and enthusiasm. You will enjoy it and more importantly so will your audience.
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