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The Eight Worst Mistakes that Keynote Speakers Make

The Eight Worst Mistakes that Keynote Speakers Make

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.

1. A Weak Start.

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.

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2.  Over-use of PowerPoint.

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.”

3. No Clear Message.

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.

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4.  No Human Interest.

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.

5.  Lack of Enthusiasm.

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.

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6.  Too Much Me and Not Enough You.

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.’

7. No Rehearsal.

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.

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8. Overrunning on Time.

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.

More by this author

Paul Sloane

Professional Keynote Speaker, Author, Innovation Expert

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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