Public speaking is a skill and like any other skill, it is learned and improved upon. Honing this skill takes practice, mostly in front of the mirror, but it also takes willingness to accept and understand that certain habits need to be avoided. Here are 5 common bad habits speakers, even experienced ones, sometimes fall prey to.
1. Forgetting your audience
A good communicator knows his audience. Get a feel of the crowd before speaking to them. Observe previous speakers or look at the group’s profile prior to your speech so you know what type of language to use when presenting to them. If you are speaking to professionals, you can spit out technical term after technical term. If on the other hand, you are speaking to the youth, you can loosen up a bit and be more casual. However, it is always best keep things simple and straightforward so people can understand you better.
2. Winging it
Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Make it worth their while by researching well on the topic given and organizing your thoughts before presenting. One surefire way to captivate an audience is to challenge their intellect. No one likes to spend time listening to someone ramble. Present facts, logical arguments and unbiased opinions. Sometimes the best way to promote reflective thinking is not by imposing your beliefs but by giving them something to think about after you give your speech.
3. Fast tracking
Remember, slow and steady is always ready. Speak clearly and focus on important points instead of going through a long list of things. People have higher recall for shorter conversations and speeches if they are relevant or meaningful enough. Provide them only with information that will be useful for everyday life.
4. Talking to be heard
Share personal experiences and insights but make sure that it is relevant and can be related to their current experiences. People remember speeches that make them feel something, and by feeling something I do not mean annoyance or disgust. Talk about what made your job at companies X, Y, Z a good learning experience instead of talking about your accomplishments as if you are reading off a resume. Talk about people that made things easier (or more difficult) and how they impacted your attitude towards work. If you are given the freedom to interact with your audience, ask them simple yes or no questions like “have you ever felt like…” or “have you ever experienced…” It will make it easier for them to connect with you on an emotional level.
5. Always on the edge
Practice being calm when talking about an advocacy or a hot issue. You would not want to sound like a raging activist or a whiny “professional” who constantly speaks with an angry tone and blurts out threats every chance he gets. Know the difference between passion and aggression. Try turning loaded statements into something positive. Say, “I prefer talking to my friends in person” instead of “social media has dehumanized my friendships.” While it is true that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, you must realize that even the simplest compromise demands mutual respect.