The funny thing is, no matter how skilled or professional a speaker is or becomes, they can still fail to get their message across. I remember one time hearing a very well known and respected inspirational speaker and leaving the talk wondering why people loved him so much. His presentation was stale and lacked passion … which was pretty much what is speech was about.
That said, you can be a mediocre speaker and still be very effective if you avoid these 5 pitfalls that even the pros sometime fall into.
Talking to Your Peers
Some speakers forget that the audience is not filled with their peers, people who know the topic on a deep level. Most of the time, your audience is going to be brand spanking new to your topic — or at least your take on it. To avoid this pitfall, get to know your audience’s level of knowledge on the topic before you give the speech so that you can tailor it to their level of understanding. This way, you’ll not only be able to hook them into the topic more effectively, but communicate your message using words, stories and imagery that they will respond to.
Withholding Heart and Soul
I think T’pau had it right with their song “Heart and Soul.” Your audience shouldn’t have to “beg for love.” In fact, they won’t. If you can’t make a human connection with your audience while you’re up on stage, you’ve failed. This is why your information needs to be couched (or at least framed) by stories and anecdotes. This is why your passion for your topic needs to shine through. Your audience needs to feel you care about their ability to take your information and do something positive with it. I know this is where that famous speaker I mentioned earlier failed. I did not get the feeling that he cared about what he was saying or whether we did anything with the information or not.
Embracing Your Inner Don Rickles
Don’t insult your audience. You need to respect them. If you are there to help them do something that is new to them, you need to honor the reasons they might not be doing it now. They may be afraid, ashamed or just plain ignorant. These are all things that can change … they’ve come to hear you so they can change. Don’t show scorn or disdain for their current situation. Gently bring them into the fold of new ways to do things. Remember, they’ll remember more how you made them feel than anything else … make them feel good.
Not Inspiring Action
You’ve just shared with your audience some valuable information. Now what? What should they do with it? Why should they do anything with it at all? If you want your message to be remembered, you’ll need to inspire people to do more than just listen to your presentation. You’ll need to give them a clear idea of how to act on the information provided and a very good reason why they should. You can do this in the body or conclusion of your speech, or you can invite them to engage with you after the presentation in some way.
No On-Stage Persona
Many speakers just give information without a unique spark of life. What I mean by this is that the information is dry and lifeless, it doesn’t have a vital personality propelling it forward. Your on-stage persona can be very much like your off-stage reality. The difference is that it shines through your words via vocal variety and gestures. Ask anyone in theatre … do they need to move their body differently on stage than in person? The answer is going to be yes. This is why stage acting is so different from movie acting. The further your audience is away from you, the more exaggerated and potent you must be to get your message across. Of course, there is a balance to be achieved … there is such a thing as too exaggerated and potent.
I hope you found this information helpful and that you will avoid these pitfalls as you embrace your inner public speaking superhero and unleash your public speaking super powers!