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Three Public Speaking Mistakes To Avoid


I'm sorry I'm late.

I'm always late.

These were the first words a high-ranking, Senior Civil Servant uttered during a Town Hall briefing. After the hour-long speech, I remembered little, except that his timekeeping was appalling.

So uninterested was I that I began comparing it with the one I heard the night before. Our very own Glen Savage had delivered a seven-minute speech on the benefits of planking. It had everything: an engaging catchphrase (plink, plonk, plank) as an opener, audience participation, and an energetic planking demonstration to conclude.

It blew my mind. You couldn't have a more diverse contrast between the two.

The opening of a speech is the most critical part. An excellent opener hooks your audience in and captures the attention. A superb opener doesn't involve the word sorry or an apology.

So the first mistake to avoid when giving a speech is apologising during your opener.

But this experience got me thinking, what other mistakes do people often make during a speech?

One frequent trait is pace. A lot of speakers tend to babble like a machine gun. How they breathe when doing this baffles me. Nerves, of course, can sometimes get the best of us.

We've all been there, itching to get the speech over and done with as quickly as possible.

REMEMBER: Count to three and breath.

That will help your nerves.

Often overlooked are silence and the power that goes with it. Adding a pause can give your audience time to reflect, particularly after a crucial point or question.

Pauses can be simple to engineer in, too, such as walking across the stage or taking a sip of water.

Lack of preparation is another mistake speakers often make. Back when I was in my youth, I would often 'wing' a presentation and hope no one would notice. Poor performance was usually the outcome.

How many times have you seen a speaker shuffling their hastily written notes and generally feeling unconfident about their subject? Perhaps they have missed out on some critical facts or points?

The key to preparation is planning. What do you want your audience to think and feel during and after your speech?

What's the message in your speech?

What structure will you use?

What research do you need to carry out beforehand?

Answering these questions will make you a better, more prepared, polished speaker.

Of course, practice makes perfect, and there is no better place to practice than Toastmasters.

Mistakes are part of life; we learn from our mistakes. If you are not making a mistake, you are probably not human!

So, in summary, craft a memorable opener, remember to breathe and pause during your speech, and do your research beforehand.

I look forward to hearing your speeches.


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