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Mistakes to Avoid in Speeches and Talks

Mistakes to Avoid in Speeches and Talks

Having confidence as a public speaker and knowing how to engage an audience are both powerful tools every small business owner should have. A poor presentation or a boring podcast doesn’t just simply reflect on you, it also reflects badly on your business as a whole.

Speeches: Failing to Captivate the Audience

When it comes to mastering the art of public speaking, connection is the key. If you aren’t connected to your audience as a speaker, your speech will not be a success. A powerful speech will engage the audience from the get-go and they will leave feeling motivated, inspired and empowered. Failing to captivate an audience can be the result of a number of factors, but the main culprit is neglecting to identify with your audience. If you can’t identify with the crowd, you can’t tailor your speech to address their interests, curiosities, and passions. The solution to this common pitfall is to research your audience as thoroughly as you researched the content for the speech itself. A simple way to engage your audience is to use eye contact to sweep the room. A fleeting moment of eye contact can make sure every person in the room feels a connection to your words and brings a sense of involvement to the experience.

Conferences: Delivery Failure

Creating an interesting and thought-provoking speech is only half the battle when it comes to addressing a crowd at a conference. Failing to work on the delivery of a speech is a common mistake that can leave your audience cold. It’s natural to be nervous, but letting your nerves get the better of you can see your delivery suffer. Common mistakes include mumbling through your speech, rushing the delivery without pause for your audience to mull over the content, and perhaps the worst, speaking too quietly. There is some truth to the old adage “practice makes perfect” and spending some time perfecting the delivery is time well spent. If in doubt, slow it down to ensure the main points of your speech have the desired impact.

Panel Talks: Blending into the Background

Panel talks are perhaps the most difficult to navigate as a public speaker, as many find it hard to strike a balance between hogging the limelight and fading into the background. Unlike a presentation or a conference, you don’t have the floor to yourself, forcing you to share the spotlight. Before you attend, you should think carefully about what you can bring to the table from an expertise point of view. You cannot predict how the talks will flow, but you can prepare a few well thought out points to use when the opportunity arrives. This allows the other panel members to share their views without eclipsing your own.

Presentations: Information Overload

When presenting information surrounding a particular topic, the aim is to be informative and educational. The audience should leave with knowledge they didn’t have upon entry, but all too often, presentations can be made up of content that is all-together too complex and the result is an audience who feel baffled and blinded by technical jargon. A simple way to overcome this is to impart the information to the audience in a way that is relatable. Swap complex graphs and endless stats for manageable chunks of interesting data.

Webinars: All Filler No Killer

Webinars are an ideal way to impart knowledge on a particular topic, but they often have a bad reputation for being dull and dry. The main reason for this is the audience simply soaks up the information and interaction is kept to a minimum. For this reason, in order to keep your followers interested from beginning to end, you must be wary of how much filler content is included. Make sure that every single word is of value to the listener and avoid repetition of words as this could, in turn, irritate the audience. A remedy to this is to watch your speeches back and be your own critic. This is a simple way to identify any bad habits and eradicate them, improving the quality of your webinar and your audience simultaneously.

Round Tables: Dominating the Discussion

Celebrating academic discussions and complex topics, round tables are often a formal affair that take place around a circular table that is designed to invite equal participation from the group. One of the biggest mistakes speakers are guilty of in this situation is stealing the limelight and dominating the discussion. Round Tables often attract a large number of participants and the key to avoiding this common pitfall is to enhance the current points being made by other group members rather than speaking over them.

Podcasts: Scripted Content

There’s no doubt that creating a podcast is one of the least intimidating forms of communicating with an audience. This is one of the benefits that come with presenting to an online community. However, this method does have its pitfalls. Perfecting the art of podcasting is no easy feat mostly because it’s hard to connect and engage with an audience that you can’t see. A script can help you to successfully get all of the points across, but it could bore your listeners in the process and prevent your personality from shining through. While it may be tempting to read from a script, a conversational approach is much more engaging and relatable.

Presenting to an audience needn’t be stressful. Use these tips to make sure you don’t fall victim to these common public speaking pitfalls.

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by Jason O'Brien // Jason O'Brien is the Chief Operating Officer of He joined the company in 2007 having previously worked for Boeing and obtaining a BA in Information Systems from the University of Redlands.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.