10 reasons why you're dreadful at public speaking

By: Guest contributor

Date: 20 April 2015

10 reasons why you’re dreadful at public speaking {{}}Unfortunately, far too many people in business really don’t cut the mustard when it comes to public speaking. And yet, being able to present your business in a clear and engaging way is essential if you are to succeed. So, what should you do if you’re guilty of committing one of the common public speaking sins listed below?

  1. You become the invisible man or woman

If you stand in front of your audience reading the content of densely packed slides you will become invisible.

Solution: Use simple visual aids to support your points and make yourself visible.

The audience is bothering you

I watched as a speaker walked to the stage, looked at his audience and let out a huge sigh. He made the audience members feel they had caused him a big problem by turning up.

Solution: Remind yourself why your audience needs to hear from you and stride up looking confident.

You like to fly by the seat of your pants

It’s a fact – powerful public speakers prepare and practise. Being adaptable is positive. However, lack of preparation means you’re most likely to ramble and confuse your listeners.

Solution: Take time to prepare and practise.

You want to share 100 fascinating facts

If you pack in too much your audience simply won’t be able to take it all in.

Solution: adopt a “less is more” approach. Focus on a few relevant facts and make them memorable.

You love standing in front of an audience

Perhaps you love speaking in public too much. You may be extrovert and charming, but if you overrun your allotted speaking time no one will thank you.

Solution: Show your love by considering your audience’s needs and stick to time.

Your utterances are mutterances

If you run your words together, trail off at the end of sentences, speak too quietly or are monotonous you’re one of the speakers audiences dread. It’s time to start articulating clearly, bringing energy into your voice and remember that everyone in the room needs to hear you.

Solution: Listen to recordings of your speeches, notice the patterns and take corrective action. If it’s really bad, consider voice coaching.

You shout at your audience

You can be too loud. In a small room this can make the audience feel as if they’re being shouted at or even pushed towards the back wall by the pressure of the sound. You can also come across as bullying or hectoring.

Solution: Adapt and vary your volume to fit the size of the space and for the sake of your audience’s ears.

You’re talking to the wrong audience

You’ve forgotten to check who will be in the audience. You can talk about leadership to teens but should you use the examples and stories that you used at your local Rotary Club?

Solution: Do your homework and focus on your audience.

You haven’t done your research

Do you know what the previous speaker’s subject is and what he/she has said? Words audiences fear include: “As Sara has already said...” “I was going to tell you about…. But, er… Um… You’ve heard it from John, so… I’ll just skip the next 10 slides.”

Solution: Co-ordinate with other speakers.

You forget you’re in front of an audience

You talk to the slides forgetting the people behind you. You nervously claw at your neck, you absent-mindedly scratch (I’ll leave where to your imagination), you start to talk to someone in the front row and turn your presentation into a private conversation. You’ve forgotten that public speaking is a performance.

Solution: Watch yourself on video to see how you perform and try to avoid bad habits.

Public speaking is a key business skill, so take steps to overcome the reasons that get in the way of good public speaking – and you’ll quickly go from dreadful to distinguished.

Copyright © 2015 Dorothea Stuart, member of Toastmasters International, a nonprofit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of locations. There are nearly 300 clubs in the UK and Ireland, find your nearest here. Follow @Toastmasters on Twitter.