Speaking in public is a powerful way of opening your business, ideas, and brand to a large number potential clients, but it’s amazing how many people get it wrong. For some this due to a lack of confidence; for others, it’s failing to acknowledge that speaking is a skill like any other; while for some, it’s just plain old failure to rehearse.
The potential for enormous brand exposure is an attractive prospect for many, but it can be a nerve-wracking experience. A successful presentation may bring you in sales and successful new relationships, partnerships or contacts, but a misjudged one can spell brand disaster.
Thankfully, there are many ways to help prevent this latter scenario ever being the case. Just take a look at our list of 9 mistakes that you can work to avoid, and start working towards improving your communication and performing that perfect, customer-magnetising speech!
1. Lack of energy
Have you ever sat in a room with an audience of peers listening to a speaker delivering a presentation, and they sound like they are reading a weather report? I think that most of us have, and we all sat there wondering when the torture was going to end.
A speaker’s style is as important as the content they are broadcasting to their audience. A lukewarm style will produce a lukewarm response, whereas an energetic speaker who constantly improves their communication skills is more likely to inform and enthuse their audience.
Even if you are inexperienced on stage, if you manage to deliver your speech with gusto, volume and enthusiasm you are not only likely to provoke a better response, but this extra energy may also give you the confidence needed to drop those early-speech jitters.
2. Data dumping
When you are speaking on stage and you want to make a point, emphasise a strategy’s potential, or comment on market trends, it’s easy to fall into the trap of data dumping. Be warned, though: a well-placed stator two can make for a striking opening or a talking point, but a giant list of facts and figures can be a drain and a drag.
Use data sparingly, favouring surprising stats or a crystal-clear graph over a confusing table or a list. An audience wants to be engaged by a speaker’s words and speaking skills, and would prefer not to be bombarded with facts and figures.
3. Reading from slides
Under-preparation can lead to a speaker reading from their slides, when slides should assist and provide a balance to the speaker’s actions rather than being the focus of attention. A great speaker can connect with their audience and make them feel a direct line of engagement, whereas a poor speaker will fail to establish any connection. Reading directly from slides will reduce the likelihood of this connection taking place, as it can make you seem inauthentic or even disrespectful, suggesting that you haven’t invested the time required to know your material well enough.
4. Lack of emotion
When a speech is given without feeling or emotional resonance, it is likely to fall flat.
An effective way of engaging your audience is to present in the form of an emotional narrative. People like to relate to what they are being told, and generating emotional responses with your speaking skills will help them engage more, care more, and be more easily swayed by a call to action.
Give your audience reasons to care by telling them a human story, taking a personal angle, or perhaps even tugging their heartstrings a little.
5. Weak opening, forgettable ending
Starting a presentation without a strong hook is missing an easy, effective way to make your audience sit up and pay close attention. A good speech might begin with a stark statistic, an exciting story, or a provocative question.
Similarly, you should take advantage of the end of your presentation to re-emphasise your most important points and encourage the audience to take up your call to action. Without a strong conclusion or climax, you are unlikely to stay in your listeners’ minds for long.
6. Nervous fidgets and habits
Some people have tics and fidgets, and that can’t be helped. However, hand-fiddling and nervous habits are sometimes a symptom of poor prep or failing to treat your speaking skills with as much care as you need for success.
If you know that you are likely to pace unnecessarily or indulge in distracting hand gestures while you talk, you should do all you can to reduce these bad habits and thereby improve your communication. You want the audience’s attention to be on your words, not your awkward body language.
7. Not being yourself
One way that speakers have been known to try and overcome stage nervousness is by trying to take on another, better-respected, speaker’s persona. While imitation is said to be the highest compliment you can pay, it is usually transparent to the audience, inauthentic, and you will come across as a 2nd rate copy of the person you are impersonating.
Instead, improve your own communication and speaking skills, find what makes them uniquely engaging and develop these areas instead.
8. Fearing vulnerability
Entrepreneurs often feel the need to keep up a bulletproof, invulnerable façade. However, if you want your audience to feel a connection with you then they are likely to relate to your flaws and weaknesses, as these often make you seem more human. One of the best ways to do this is by opening up to your audience and being honest about the person you are.
You must, of course, balance this by focusing more on the positives that these traits provide than the negatives. No one wants to partner with someone who is driven entirely by emotion and seems like a liability because of it!
Yet another symptom of nervousness or insecurity, some people are so desperate to get to the end of their presentation that they will hurry through everything they say. It’s unlikely that many people will have found themselves enthralled by someone gabbling at a million words a minute, so instead take pauses, breathe carefully, talk clearly and slowly, and don’t fear those moments of silence that often help your listeners absorb your points.
What are your pet hates or mistakes that people tend to make when they are giving presentations or speaking publicly? What advice would you give to someone who is giving a public presentation for the first time? How do you improve your communication? Let us know in the comments, or start a conversation on the Unlimited Success Facebook community.