Bad presentation habits are everywhere.
You’ve probably been on the receiving end of a few of them this year. Perhaps you’ve even been challenged by a few yourself.
I’m not referring to the usual culprits.
A few common bad presentation habits are
– Saying ‘Err’, ‘Umm’, ‘So’, ‘You know. Etc.
– Talking too fast
– Fidgeting… playing with my wedding ring, hair, pen, etc.
– Not making eye contact
– Reading slides
– Moving around too much
– Hands in pockets, behind back, clasped
– Standing with legs crossed
– Speaking too much
You can read more about these in a previous article, ‘Presentation Skills Bad Habits are Easy to Find.’
There are more insidious bad presentation habits
These bad presentation habits aren’t of course isolated to presenting and public speaking.
They have existed since the beginning of time itself and are ubiquitous and all pervasive.
Left unchallenged they can do considerable damage.
Let’s leave many of them behind in 2022
Self – doubt
I like the way author, Sabirul Islam describes it in his article: ‘SELF-DOUBT AND PUBLIC SPEAKING: WHAT IS IT AND HOW TO ADDRESS IT.’
‘Self-doubt is a cloud of negative energy that builds up over time, that turns simple questions such as can I do this? Is this really for me? Into…‘I can’t do this,’ ‘this is not for me.’’
In his article he offers 3 helpful suggestions.
– ‘Focus on the audience’
– ‘Your message or story holds the key’
– ‘Try, keep trying and try again’
Comparison to others
I share author, Sarah Denholm’s perspective in her article: ‘How to Avoid Comparing Yourself to Others as a Speaker.’
‘We’re wired for comparison: particularly when we’re feeling insecure, which just makes it harder to deal with.
In general, we compare for two main reasons: one positive, the other less so. We’re trying to:
Understand ourselves better and learn something new —this is good
Feel better about ourselves by hoping that the person we’re comparing ourselves to is lower or “less” than us — this is not so good.’
Rachel Cruze offers 8 helpful tips in her article, ‘How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others.’
My favourite tip is, ‘Focus on your strengths.’
Fear of failure
Of all the bad presentation habits, this is one of the most common and debilitating.
French hornist and author, Arthur C. Brooks sums it up well for us in his article, ‘Go Ahead and Fail’:
‘Looking bad in front of others is arguably the most common dread people face.’
I also resonate with his description of:
‘In Dante’s Divine Comedy, Satan is depicted as a victim of his terrible pride by being frozen from the waist down—fixed and in agony—in ice of his own making. Fear of failure and perfectionism are like that prideful sea of ice, freezing you in place with thoughts of what others will think of you—or, worse, what you will think of yourself—if you do not succeed at something.’
My favourite tip of his is one we help professionals with in our presentation skills workshops and one to one public speaking coaching, ‘Focus on the present’.
In her article, ‘5 Benefits of Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone’, author, Abigail Brenner M.D. writes:
‘ Being in one’s comfort zone implies familiarity, safety, and security. It describes the patterned world of our existence, keeps us relatively comfortable and calm, and helps us stay emotionally even, free from anxiety and worry to a great degree. Creating a comfort zone is a healthy adaptation for much of our lives. But so is stepping out of our comfort zone when it’s time to transition, grow, and transform.’
Abigail shares 5 benefits of stepping outside of your comfort zone.
My favourite one is:
‘Your “real life” is out there waiting for you. Your real life exists beyond the bubble of your own personal thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. Your real life is the sum total of ALL of your experiences, not just the one’s you’re comfortable with.’
- Unhelpful beliefs
We all have them.
When it comes to public speaking and presenting I wrote about some of the most common in a previous article, ‘A Public Speaking Phenomenon – I feel terrible but you can’t see it.’
– No one will want to listen to me
– My ideas aren’t good/interesting enough
– I can’t speak well enough to engage an audience
– No one is going to find this interesting
– I’m a terrible/nervous/boring speaker
Beliefs are hard to change
It is possible though when we begin to challenge them. That starts with managing your inner critic.
I share how to do this in my article, ‘The Presenters Inner Critic – 3 steps to taming it.’
The 3 steps are:
– Name it
– Talk to it
– Give it a rest
In her article, ‘How Your Perception Is Your Reality, According to Psychologists’, author, Jessica Estrada writes:
‘We believe what we perceive to be accurate, and we create our own realities based on those perceptions. And although our perceptions feel very real, that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily factual.’
She shares our belief at Mindful Presenter that:
‘Although it does require some work, your perception is something you can change because we choose how we see things. That power is in your hands (er, mind).’
She offers 6 helpful tips to switch to a more positive perception. My favourite tip is her first one:
‘Take personal responsibility’
‘Changing your perceptions requires that you, first and foremost, take responsibility for your past unconscious reactions, Dr. Humphreys says. It’s only then that you can begin to see people, events, things, and even yourself from a more neutral or positive perspective.’
Many of us place limits on ourself without even being consciously aware of it.
The limitations are of course aligned to our beliefs and perceptions.
Public speaking and presenting can appear quite daunting for many people because of the limitations we place on ourselves.:
Huffington Post contributor, Emily Williams shares some helpful tips in her article:
‘How to Stop Limiting Yourself (and Do Big Things Instead)’
I’ve included them below:
‘Five Ways to Stop Limiting Yourself’
– ‘Think in 90-day increments and live in the moment.’
– ‘Remember that the mind often plans based on what it knows. So, for example, if you’ve never started a business, then the mind will naturally hold you back because you’ve never done it before. (Clearly that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t though!)’
– ‘Be as positive as you can.’
– ‘Consider your thoughts and words carefully.’
– ‘Hold onto the belief that anything is possible, because it is. (If you need to write that on a Post-It and put it on your mirror, then do so!)
Opinions of others
I believe that Jay Shetty captures the issue perfectly:
‘Do you struggle with worrying about what people think about you? We are a society that is mightily influenced by the words of others. All too often, we take what others say to heart when we don’t need to.’
Constructive feedback and advice can be very helpful to our personal growth and development. That’s something we should actively seek wherever possible.
I’m referring to the unhelpful opinions of others which only serve to stifle growth and keeping you in your comfort zone.
In his article, ‘JAY SHETTY ON 6 WAYS TO STOP LISTENING TO OTHER PEOPLE’S OPINIONS’, my favourite piece of advice is, ‘Trust Your Intuition.’
9. Lack of trust
As far as bad presentation habits go this one does a lot of damage too.
In her article, ‘Advice to a Worried Speaker: Trust Yourself, and Your Lifetime of Experience’, author, Jezra Kaye offers some very helpful advice.
My favourite is to always remember that, ‘You can do this!!’
The coach, consultant, TEDx speaker, author and founder of SoulSalt Inc. Lyn Christian also offers some sound advice in her article:
‘How to Trust Yourself: Building True Self-Confidence’
At the very least try this:
‘It’s time to transform your inner critic into a compassionate friend.
When you hear yourself in a cycle of self-doubt and criticism, take a moment to respond, like you would with a good friend.
Try practicing mindful self-compassion. Developed by Tara Brach, Ph. D, a psychologist and meditation teacher, the RAIN practice is a great way to transform self-judgment. It leads you to support yourself through difficult emotions, rather than getting stuck in them.
When you notice yourself thinking, “I don’t trust myself, I’m afraid I’ll get it wrong again,” respond with, “Hey, this is hard, what do you need to get through it?”’
In the article, ‘How To Effortlessly Have More Positive Thoughts’, it is suggested that:
‘In 2005, the National Science Foundation published an article summarizing research on human thoughts per day. It was found that the average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those thousands of thoughts, 80% were negative, and 95% were exactly the same repetitive thoughts as the day before.’
Whilst I’m aware that many readers may struggle to accept that level of negativity, most would accept that it’s a significant human challenge.
When it comes to public speaking you may be familiar with some of these thoughts offered in, the interesting article, ‘Managing Public Speaking Anxiety.’
“People are judging me,”
“I’m not going to do well,”
“I’m going to forget what to say.”
The article concludes with 10 very helpful tips.
– ‘Remember, you are not alone. Public speaking anxiety is common, so don’t ignore it—confront it.’
– Remember, you can’t literally “die of embarrassment.” Audiences are forgiving and understanding.’
– ‘Remember, it always feels worse than it looks.’
– ‘Take deep breaths. It releases endorphins, which naturally fight the adrenaline that causes anxiety.’
– ‘Look the part. Dress professionally to enhance confidence’.
– ‘Channel your nervousness into positive energy and motivation’.
– ‘Start your outline and research early. Better information = higher confidence’.
– ‘Practice and get feedback from a trusted source. (Don’t just practice for your cat.’)
– ‘Visualize success through positive thinking’.
– ‘Prepare, prepare, prepare! Practice is a speaker’s best friend’.
Managing Public Speaking Anxiety
In a previous article I wrote, called, ‘Public speaking anxiety- It’s all in the mind…’ I suggested that:
‘Often, when we have a goal or a dream, one of the menaces that can hold us back is our memory.
We remember the last time we failed or when things didn’t go so well or how badly we felt.
We remember all of the problems and obstacles we faced
Such memories can all too easily become a curse when we are called on to present.
The secret is to use our memories to our advantage.’
I also shared the solution
‘Choose to recall the times you felt at your best, confident, excited, happy and unstoppable.
As you do so, consciously, those memories become a powerful force in helping you to dispel the nerves.
Our positive memories can enable us to speak with confidence and authenticity.
What is it that you choose to remember whilst you prepare for and then deliver your presentation?’
I also shared a perspective on this in, ‘Public speaking anxiety- It’s all in the mind…’
Presenting the human imagination as one of our greatest and most powerful intellectual faculties I wrote:
‘The last time you were overly anxious about a presentation ask yourself what you were imagining at the time.
Sometimes we imagine forgetting our words, being paralyzed, the audience yawning or our technology failing.
The solution is to use our imaginations positively
Imagine your audience smiling, nodding in agreement and applauding.
Imagine them benefiting greatly from the message you have to share with them.
Don’t imagine your audience naked or try to picture them in their underwear, that’s futile.
Picture them as friends
Imagine yourself having a conversation with them.
Abandon the image of trying to lecture or impress them.
See them as fellow human beings who are your equals. A group of people who simply want to know whether you can help make their lives better, easier or happier.
Ask yourself how you can help your audience use their imaginations to bring your message to life.
You won’t stimulate their imagination by simply dumping a load of data into their minds.
Paint pictures in their minds
Be creative, tell them stories and help them to see what you are saying too.’
Let’s leave them behind in 2022
As I noted at the beginning of this article ,these challenges extend way beyond bad presentation habits. ‘They have existed since the beginning of time itself and are ubiquitous and all pervasive.’
In my career as a public speaking and presentation skills coach I’ve noticed that once we begin working on them in one area, we see benefits across all areas of our lives.
If you are challenged by any or all of these, make a commitment to focus on one of them each month during 2023.
In the meantime, the team at Mindful Presenter Ltd would like to wish you a truly happy New Year and every success for 2023 and beyond.
If you need help with any of these bad presentation habits:
– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.
– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.
– Get yourself some excellent presentation training
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