Seven basic mistakes to avoid when speaking to public
It is not easy to deliver a lecture or presentation that is just the right length, that keeps the audience engaged, that is interesting, astonishing, that provides additional information and that audience will remember later on. Public speakers with less routine and practice tend to make basic mistakes that they better avoid. We have summarized a couple of these mistakes in this article. One of them is, why avoid loding your speech with a lot of jokes?
The beginning should not be dull and sluggish!
One of the most important parts of the speech is the beginning. The best is to set up the introductory words and phrases in advance to attract the audience right from the very first second. The aim is to have them feel like: ‘That sounds interesting, let’s see what is it all about!’ Instead of reading the agenda or telling a weak joke, try to start with a short or emotional story that is related to your topic.
Additionally, you may also:
- Start with a quote that fits into your speech, for example: “Do you know who said: ’Who, being loved, is poor?’ (Oscar Wilde)”;
- Show interesting statistics data. For example: ‘Did you know that there is one specific day of the week when 20% more unexpected heart attacks occur in cases of adult men?‘ (on Mondays);
- Ask engaging questions, like: ‘Why do you think the most successful people get up at 5am every morning?’.
No matter which kick start you may choose, make sure you raise the audience’s attention!
Do not read out your written text!
Have you ever took part in presentations where the speaker was simply reading out the text? It wasn’t very engaging, was it? If people can read the text on the projector screen ahead of them, it makes no sense to read out loud what they can see, anyway. This does not offer them anything new and interesting, the speech will get monotonous, and they will definitely get bored. What’s worse, there is a risk that they slowly leave the lecture hall one by one …
Do not apologize!
Some speakers are keen on raising the sympathy of the audience by apologizing themselves at the beginning of the speech. For example, they apologize themselves if they are running late or if it takes time to turn on the projector. Don’t start your speech like this! Doing so will convey a negative message right in the beginning. Also, it will be difficult for you to pick up enthusiasm again or maintain interest. If you need to start your speech a few minutes later, no big deal. Just be enthusiastic and tell an appropriate, short story that will grab your listeners’ attention!
Do not insist on giving the same speech each time!
Audience will notice if they hear a generalized presentation that turns out not to be about them. Always find out in advance who your audience is going to be and tailor your speech to them. An important aspect is their age, their occupation, their expectations about your presentation, the problems they may face, etc. Always keep in mind that no matter how many of them are present, most people prefer topics related to themselves. Therefore, try to tailor your speech to your audience each time!
Do not play with your pen during your presentation!
Whether you wiggle with your pen during your speech, whether you meddle with your clothes or if you cannot stop scratching your head or licking your lips while you speak, it all suggests anxiety and distract the audience’ attention from your message. You may have noticed that singers with less practice tend to use strange, nervous gestures that they are not aware of at all. Later, they can overcome this by practice and can abandon completely. It may be a challenge for beginner speakers to keep these motions under control, but it is worth monitoring them.
Don’t rush through your speech!
One of the most disturbing mistakes is when beginner speakers give their speeches as quickly as possible without pausing for a second. Of course, excitement and stress make them to finish the lecture fast. That way, the audience may somehow feel like they are sitting on a rushing bus or subway, thus they quickly lose their attention. Make sure to pause for two seconds before or after an important message of yours. It is one of the greatest rhetoric tools to draw their attention to something important, interesting, or to introduce something new. Remember: if there is a sudden silence, it is always striking!
Finally: why you should avoid loding your speech with a lot of jokes
It’s difficult to prejudge whether the audience will be open for jokes. Anyway, using too much humour does not always lead to a better outcome from your perspective. Interestingly, many speakers forget that tiny, innocent sentences might offend people. Moreover, it is also possible that the audience finds the speaker not competent if he or she tries to look too funny. Try to find the right balance of the amount of humour, which you can best achieve by getting to know your prospective audience beforehand.
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