Archives For public speaking

Bad Advice about SpeakingThere are a lot of myths, misconceptions, and flat-out bad advice about public speaking.

Here’s my list of the Top Nine Myths and Bad Advice about Public Speaking

  1. It’s not what you say that matters, but how you say it.
    Delivery is important. An articulate, powerful, and charismatic delivery can make a mundane message seem more important than it is. And a really bad delivery can kill the best message. But it is the message that counts. It’s what will change people’s thoughts and behavior. It’s what they’ll remember.
  2. To develop confidence, look over the heads of your audience or imagine them in their underwear.
    There are better ways to develop confidence when giving a speech. (Check out “The Three Best Ways to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking.”) Looking people in the eye helps make a connection with them and gains their trust, which in turn will make you more confident. Imagining people in their underwear is disrespectful, and you never want to disrespect your audience.
  3. Start your speech with a joke.
    Never start your speech with a joke…unless you’re a professional comedian and the audience is already warmed up. Your odds of bombing are astronomical. (Check out Should You Tell Jokes or Use Humor in a Speech?) Humor — which is different from telling jokes — is almost always appropriate.
  4. End your presentation with Q&A.
    You can save Q&A to the end of your speech. But after you’ve answered the last question, don’t simply thank the audience and sit down. Take another half-minute or minute to end your speech: recap your main point and give your audience reason to act on it.
  5. Use PowerPoint because most people are visual learners.
    Making people read words is something entirely different from showing them images. As a matter of fact, people can’t read and listen at the same time. You have two alternatives. Use visuals (not words) on your slides: pictures, graphs, charts, and the like. Or tell stories and uses the type of words that engage people’s imaginations, where they create their own visual images.
  6. Some people are natural born speakers, some aren’t.
    Giving a speech is a skill, like learning how to read or ride a bike. Some people seem to have more of an aptitude than others (for speaking, reading, or riding a bike). But with guidance and practice most (not all, but most) people can learn how to give a good speech.
  7. There’s never any need to write out a speech.
    Writing out your speech or, at least, writing out parts of your speech can make it more powerful, compelling, and memorable. It will force you to clarify your thoughts and to hone your message. (Check out Should You Write Out a Speech?)
  8. Rehearsing a speech is a waste of time.
    Never give a speech or presentation without first rehearsing it. At least once, stand up and talk through your speech out loud. Do not think that thinking it through in your mind is enough. You have to get your mouth around your message before you stand in front of an audience. (Check out How to Rehearse a Speech.)
  9. Watching a videotape of yourself speaking is the best way to improve.
    Most speech coaches swear by videotaping their clients. I find that, at best, it makes people aware of their bad habits and allows them to improve them…temporarily. At worst, it makes people even more self-conscious and hyper-critical. I recommend practicing in front of a supportive audience. (Consider joining a Toastmasters club.) You can also work with a speech coach who will help you create a message you believe in and the confidence to deliver it.

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Fear of public SpeakingWe’re often told that people’s #1 fear is the fear of public speaking.

I don’t put much faith in that statistic, but there’s no denying that public speaking fills many people with dread bordering on panic.

I’ve been there. Once I was so nervous — scared out of my mind — that I froze halfway through my speech, completely forgetting what I was going to say, and bolted from the room.

Since then I’m more or less tamed my fear of speaking.  Although I’ve given thousands of speeches over the years, I still get nervous.

So that’s my beginning premise. Don’t try to banish all fear. Try, instead, to keep it at a manageable level.

Panic is bad. Fear is disabling. A bit of nervous can be a good thing: it’ll keep you on your toes and add some energy to your presentation.

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Woman confused by speech that lacks a central pointHow many times, after sitting through a speech, have you asked yourself “What was that about?” or simply thought “Huh?”

Having a point and being able to express it clearly isn’t the only skill required of speakers, but it is one of the most important skills.

If people can’t figure out what you’re talking about or what you’re getting at, they’ll stop listening to you. They’ll lose respect for you. And they won’ t do, think, or feel what you want them to.

This is the test of an effective speech: Can you say in one sentence (in 10 to 20  words) what it was about?

(There are, of course, other questions to ask, but only after you have first answered that question.)

Unfortunately, many presentations fail that most basic test. For example… Continue Reading…

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