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15 Mistakes That Excellent Public Speakers Never Make In Their Presentations

15 Mistakes That Excellent Public Speakers Never Make In Their Presentations
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Public speaking isn’t an easy feat. Many speakers, even well-trained ones, get nervous and sometimes mess up. There are some mistakes professional presenters never make, though. Here are a few of them, and what to do instead.

1. They don’t wait until the night before to prepare

Audiences can tell when a speaker hasn’t adequately prepared for his or her presentation. To give a successful presentation, a speaker needs to not only have taken the time to put together an effective, well-structured speech, but by the time they get up on stage or in front of a room, they’ve already practiced it a dozen times.

2. They don’t let the audience know they’re nervous

Everyone gets nervous before a big presentation, even experts. Nervousness can cause a lot of fidgeting and other awkward movement, though, which distracts the audience from the content of the speech. If you can, hide your nervousness. Practice your speech so well that you’ll be able to perform right through your nerves without your audience ever noticing.

3. They don’t fidget

Twirling your hair, sliding your hands into your pockets, even walking back-and-forth while you’re speaking can be extremely distracting to those trying to listen to what you have to say. Instead, use your nervous energy to pull your audience in within the first 15 seconds.

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4. They don’t just stare at one spot on the wall

Speaking to a group of people is much more than just standing in front of a screen telling them what to do. To show the audience you are interested in the subject matter as well as their reactions to it, don’t just stare at the wall behind them. Make eye contact with as many audience members as you can, to make them feel like they’re part of it, too.

5. They don’t read off their notes or slides

Isn’t it harder to pay attention when someone is talking to you, but is staring down at their phone? It’s important to make eye contact with the members of your audience as you speak. You can have notes in front of you, but do your best only to glance at them, instead of keeping your head down the whole time.

6. They don’t jump back and forth between topics

Keep your presentation clean and organized by allowing the content to flow easily from one point to the next. Jumping back-and-forth between an array of topics will confuse your audience and can even make it difficult for them to figure out the overarching point you’re trying to make.

7. They don’t speak in monotone

When we speak naturally, our tone takes on fluctuations and shifts in volume at the appropriate times. These are audible cues to help your listeners follow along and stay engaged from start to finish. If you speak in monotone for 15 straight minutes, you’ll lose most of your audience before you even get the chance to make your point.

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8. They don’t present their slides full of typos and small fonts

While you don’t want your visual aids to be the center of your presentation, you don’t want to distract your audience and make yourself look sloppy and unprofessional, either. Proofread your slides and make sure the audience can read them from the back row.

9. They don’t talk a mile a minute

When you’re up in front of people, and you want to do well but you’re also nervous, you will end up talking a lot faster than you originally planned. This might get you out of the spotlight faster, but no one will be able to hear and comprehend what you’re saying. Speak slower than you think you need to.

10. They don’t go over a specific time limit

Probably the worst thing you can do as a public speaker is draw your presentation out past its time limit. There are reasons TED Talks, for example, are capped at less than 15 minutes. If you can’t make and support your points in that time frame, your speech isn’t quite ready to be heard yet.

11. They don’t rely too heavily on technology

When a presentation relies too much on technology, it becomes less of a presentation and more of a demonstration. A speaker should be able to give their presentation in full without supplemental technology. Slides and other visual aids should act as bonus material, instead of the focal point of the presentation. This also ensures that a presentation can continue even if the technology fails.

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12. They don’t say “um” every time they pause

Fillers—saying “um” or “so” to fill pauses—don’t go unnoticed by listeners, especially when it’s a nervous habit. Speaking slowly and even strategic pausing, without feeling the need to fill the silence, can help eliminate using fillers without realizing it. This is also why preparing and practicing is a plus.

13. They don’t act like the audience isn’t there

A common mistake among less experienced public speakers is to stand in front of a room full of people and speak to the wall behind them. Members of an audience will be much more interested in your presentation if you make them part of the ordeal, instead of talking over their heads.

14. They don’t wait until the very end to state their point

Giving a speech is like writing a story. If you wait until the last line to get your point across, most readers won’t make it that far. Get to the point. State your main idea at the very beginning of your presentation and then continue on with more details so the audience can follow along.

15. They don’t expect everything to go as planned

No matter how well you plan, something can always go wrong. When you’re up in front of an audience giving a presentation, people are there to hear what you have to say. They don’t expect the speech to be perfect. Mistakes happen, but the biggest one of all is believing you won’t make any.

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Professional public speakers have had a lot of time and opportunities to refine their skills and learn from their mistakes. You can learn to avoid these mistakes, too. It’s not about being perfect; it’s about doing a little bit better this time than you did the time before.

Featured photo credit: www.audio-luci-store.it via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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