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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.

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Paul Sloane

Professional Keynote Speaker, Author, Innovation Expert

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Last Updated on April 6, 2020

10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

Most discussions on positively influencing others eventually touch on Dale Carnegie’s seminal work, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Written more than 83 years ago, the book touches on a core component of human interaction, building strong relationships. It is no wonder why.

Everything that we do hinges on our ability to connect with others and formulate deep relationships. You cannot sell a house, buy a house, advance in most careers, sell a product, pitch a story, teach a course, etc. without building healthy relationships. Managers get the best results from their teams, not through brute force, but to careful appeals to their sensibilities, occasional withdrawals from the reservoir of respect they’ve built. Using these tactics, they can influence others to excellence, to productivity, and to success.

Carnegie’s book is great. Of course, there are other resources too. Most of us have someone in our lives who positively influences us. The truth is positively influencing people is about centering the humanity of others. Chances are, you know someone who is really good at making others feel like stars. They can get you to do things that the average person cannot. Where the requests of others sound like fingernails on a chalkboard, the request from this special person sounds like music to your ears. You’re delighted to not only listen but also to oblige.

So how to influence people in a positive way? Read on for tips.

1. Be Authentic

To influence people in a positive way, be authentic. Rather than being a carbon copy of someone else’s version of authenticity, uncover what it is that makes you unique.

Discover your unique take on an issue and then live up to and honor that. Once of the reasons social media influencers are so powerful is that they have carved out a niche for themselves or taken a common issue and approached it from a novel or uncommon way. People instinctually appreciate people whose public persona matches their private values.

Contradictions bother us because we crave stability. When someone professes to be one way, but lives contrary to that profession, it signals that they are confused or untrustworthy and thereby, inauthentic. Neither of these combinations bode well for positively influencing others.

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2. Listen

Growing up, my father would tell me to listen to what others said. He told me if I listened carefully, I would know all I needed to know about a person’s character, desires and needs.

To positively influence others, you must listen to what is spoken and what is left unsaid. Therein lies the explanation for what people need in order to feel validated, supported and seen. If a person feels they are invisible, and unseen by their superiors, they are less likely to be positively influenced by that person.

Listening meets a person’s primary need of validation and acceptance.

Take a look at this guide on how to be a better listener: How to Practice Active Listening (A Step-By-Step Guide)

3. Become an Expert

Most people are predisposed to listen to, if not respect, authority. If you want to positively influence others, become an authority in the area in which you seek to lead others. Research and read everything you can about the given topic, and then look for opportunities to put your education into practice.

You can argue over opinions. You cannot argue, or it is unwise to argue, over facts and experts come with facts.

4. Lead with Story

From years of working in the public relations space, I know that personal narratives, testimonials and impact stories are incredibly powerful. But I never cease to be amazed with how effective a well-timed and told story can be.

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If you want to influence people, learn to tell stories. Your stories should be related to the issue or concept you are discussing. They should be an analogy or metaphor that explains your topic in ordinary terms and in vivid detail. To learn more about how to tell powerful stories, and the ethics of storytelling, take a look at this article: How To Tell An Interesting Story In 4 Simple Steps

5. Lead by Example

It is incredibly inspiring to watch passionate, talented people at work or play. One of the reasons a person who is not an athlete can be in awe of athletic prowess is because human nature appreciates the extraordinary. When we watch the Olympics, Olympic trials, gymnastic competitions, ice skating, and other competitive sports, we can recognize the effort of people who day in and day out give their all. C

ase in point: Simone Biles. The gymnast extraordinaire won her 6TH all-around title at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships after doing a triple double. She was the first woman to do so. Watching her gave me chills. Even non-gymnasts and non-competitive athletes can appreciate the talent required to pull off such a remarkable feat.

We celebrate remarkable accomplishments and believe that their example is proof that we too can accomplish something great, even if it isn’t qualifying for the Olympics. To influence people in a positive way, we must lead by example, lead with intention and execute with excellence.

6. Catch People Doing Good

A powerful way to influence people in a positive way is to catch people doing good. Instead of looking for problems, look for successes. Look for often overlooked, but critically important things that your peers, subordinates and managers do that make the work more effective and more enjoyable.

Once you catch people doing good, name and notice their contributions.

7. Be Effusive with Praise

It did not take me long to notice a remarkable trait of a former boss. He not only began and ended meetings with praise, but he peppered praise throughout the entire meeting. He found a way to celebrate the unique attributes and skills of his team members. He was able to quickly and accurately assess what people were doing well and then let them and their colleagues know.

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Meetings were not just an occasion to go through a “To Do” list, they were opportunities to celebrate accomplishments, no matter how small they are.

8. Be Kind Rather Than Right

I am going to level with you; this one is tough. It is easy to get caught up in a cycle of proving oneself. For people who lack confidence, or people who prioritize the opinions of others, being right is important. The validation that comes with being perceived as “right” feeds one’s ego. But in the quest to be “right,” we can hurt other people. Once we’ve hurt someone by being unkind, it is much harder to get them to listen to what we’re trying to influence them to do.

The antidote to influencing others via bullying is to prioritize kindness above rightness. You can be kind and still stand firm in your position. For instance, many people think that they need others to validate their experience. If a person does not see the situation you experienced in the way you see it, you get upset. But your experience is your experience.

If you and your friends go out to eat and you get food poisoning, you do not need your friends to agree that the food served at the restaurant was problematic for you. Your own experience of getting food poisoning is all the validation you need. Therefore, taking time to be right is essentially wasted and, if you were unkind in seeking validation for your food-poison experience, now you’ve really lost points.

9. Understand a Person’s Logical, Emotional and Cooperative Needs

The Center for Creative Leadership has argued that the best way to influence others is to appeal to their logical, emotional and cooperative needs. Their logical need is their rational and educational need. Their emotional need is the information that touches them in a deeply personal manner. The cooperative need is understanding the level of cooperation various individuals need and then appropriately offering it.

The trick with this system is to understand that different people need different things. For some people, a strong emotional appeal will outweigh logical explanations. For others, having an opportunity to collaborate will override emotional connection.

If you know your audience, you will know what they need in order to be positively influenced. If you have limited information about the people whom you are attempting to influence, you will be ineffective.

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10. Understand Your Lane

If you want to positively influence others, operate from your sphere of influence. Operate from your place of expertise. Leave everything else to others. Gone are the days when being a jack of all trades is celebrated.

Most people appreciate brands that understand their target audience and then deliver on what that audience wants. When you focus on what you are uniquely gifted and qualified to do, and then offer that gift to the people who need it, you are likely more effective. This effectiveness is attractive.

You cannot positively influence others if you are more preoccupied by what others do well versus what you do well.

Final Thoughts

Influencing people is about centering your humanity. If you want to influence others positively, focus on the way you communicate and improve the relationship with yourself first.

It’s hard to influence others if you’re still trying to figure out how to communicate with yourself.

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Featured photo credit: Wonderlane via unsplash.com

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