Do you have any bad public speaking habits?
Here are 20 bad public speaking habits a mindful presenter avoids at all costs
Fire, aim, ready
One of the worst bad public speaking habits any speaker can make is to not know their audience. Public speaking aside, every marketing expert will tell you that knowing your audience is central to any effective strategy. The mindful presenter understands that if you ‘fire’ information to an audience without being in a complete state of readiness or without a mindful aim, you will fail.
Do your research. Get to know your audience before you begin building your presentation. Speak to them, email or meet with them if possible. Find out as much as you possibly can about, who they are, how much they know already, what they want and need from you.
One size fit’s all
When it comes to public speaking and presenting, the mindful presenter knows that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Akin to the first bad habit, ‘fire, aim, ready, it’s lazy and disrespectful to assume that every audience is the same. In this Forbes article, ‘12 Pro Tips for Tailoring Your Presentation to Your Audience,’ the author writes an important truth; ‘Every audience and venue is different and comes with its own energy and vibe’.
Tailor your message and approach to your audience personally.
The Curse of Knowledge
In a previous article I wrote, ‘Most presentations are far too long’ I shared my belief which we demonstrate in our training courses that: ‘Cutting a presentation in half often results in greater clarity and the message being delivered with impact in a way that it is more likely to be remembered.’
The mindful presenter is familiar with ‘The curse of knowledge’. It’s a universal phenomenon in which the speaker knows so much about their topic, that they share that knowledge in the assumption that their audience will understand what they are speaking about.
The mindful presenter avoids the curse by adopting a practice of ensuring that everything they share is relevant to their audience. They take the time to ensure everything is explained simply and clearly.
Mud at the wall
Have you ever sat through a presentation only to return your desk asking yourself, ‘what was that about?’
If you have, then it’s probably because the presenter threw information at you mindlessly. The mediocre presenter adopts the metaphorical practice of ‘throwing mud at the wall’, in the hope that some of it will stick.
The mindful presenter avoids this by crafting a clear and compelling message. Their entire presentation revolves around, supports and animates that message. They understand that the only reason they are speaking is because they have an important message to share. They work hard to ensure that their message will stick.
At mindful presenter we refer to it as the ‘M Point’; it’s the moment of truth. The critical moment where you are able to answer the question, ‘What result do I really want from this presentation?’
Lack of PPI
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
The mindful presenter understands that at the heart of planning their presentation they need to Prepare, Practice and Internalise their content.
If you avoid the first 4 bad public speaking habits and follow the mindful presenter suggestions, you will be well along the preparation path. Practicing your presentation means doing a great deal more than staring at the slides on your laptop.
The mindful presenter practices the verbal and non-verbal expression of their message. That means speaking their presentation out aloud to people they trust and getting feedback on how they sound, look and move.
In his article ‘The Only Way to Prepare to Give a Presentation’ the author makes the case that, ‘You can’t make an effective presentation if you read from a script, rely too much on notes, or use your slides as cue cards. You have to rehearse well enough so you can give all your attention to the audience.’
The mindful presenter is acutely aware that they have to internalise their message. That doesn’t mean remembering their content. It means owning their content in such a way that if they left their notes on the train or their audio/visuals stopped working, they could still speak.
I don’t believe I have met anyone who hasn’t sat through a presentation where they have had a ton of data mindlessly dumped onto them. They didn’t want it, ask for it or need it, but they got it all anyway.
The net result of which was like they felt as though a tornado had torn through their mind and left a great deal of damage. The National Geographic says that, ‘Their winds may top 250 miles an hour and can clear a pathway a mile wide and 50 miles long.’
A bad presentation can feel just like a tornado.
The mindful presenter protects their audience from those destructive winds.
They focus on giving their audience the ‘gold’; At Mindful Presenter we coach professionals to focus on the ‘gold’.
We all have the basic human need to ‘look good’ and to protect our reputations at all costs. When it comes to public speaking and presenting that can create quite a challenge. In our quest to show our audience just how clever, creative and hard working we are, our presentation can easily become nothing more than an expression of ego.
As difficult as it is, the mindful presenter works hard to leave their ego at the door the moment they enter the room to speak. Their focus revolves entirely around how:
– They will make their audience feel
– The difference their presentation can make to their lives.
Ego’s are often at the heart of bad public speaking habits.
One of the reasons many business presentations are too long is because the presenter spends too much time, ‘beating around the bush’. ‘Rambling’ and ‘waffling’ are a big part of the problem. In her article, ‘Brevity: 3 tips for speaking less and saying more’, author Teena Maddox explains the problem, calling it the tendency of:
– Completely missing the point
The solution is simple but not necessarily easy. The mindful presenter follows six steps to radically reduce the likelihood of the ‘beating around the bush:
– Open with a bang
– Tell them your key message
– Let them know why your message is not only relevant but important to them
– Show them exactly how you can help them and give them examples
– Tell them what you want them to do now.
– Close with a bang
I wrote more about this in a previous article, ‘3 Presentation Tips to Help You To Stop ‘Waffling’’
We’ve all heard the myth that Ostriches bury their heads in the sand when they are scared. It’s not true of course. As well as not being able to see, they wouldn’t be able to breathe.
I’m reminded of the myth in the knowledge that a significant challenge for many speakers is making eye contact with their audience. In her article ‘What a Lack of Eye Contact Says About You, According to Science (and How to Fix It)’, author Wanda Thibodeaux suggests that ‘Failing to meet someone’s gaze could send not-so-flattering messages about who you are and what you’re capable of.’
The mindful presenter is aware that the most powerful way of connecting with any audience is through eye contact. If it makes you uncomfortable it’s a challenge worth overcoming. This article offers some helpful advice, ‘How to Overcome Eye Contact Anxiety.’
Speed of light
Many presenters speak too fast. It’s very easy to lose your audience’s attention and tarnish your credibility as a speaker if your audience feel as though you are speaking at the ‘speed of light’. An article in Psychology Today, ‘Do You Talk Too Fast? How to Slow Down’ offers 4 common reasons why people may speak too fast.
The mindful presenter follows the advice I shared in a previous article called ‘The truth about bad habits’:
‘If you speak too fast then make a mindful decision to slow down and pause regularly. Don’t carry on speaking too fast when you know it’s an issue. Take a few pages from one of your favourite books or if you don’t have one, the newspaper will do. Read those pages out aloud in your normal reading voice. Then practice slowing the pace right down. As you practice your presentation make the effort to record yourself speaking. Play it back and then record yourself again at a slower speed.’
Energy and enthusiasm can make or break your success as a presenter. The absence of a good level of high energy will leave your audience feeling numb, indifferent and even sleepy. The mindful presenter crafts and delivers their presentation in the belief that there is no such thing as a boring presentation. There are only boring presenters.
“If you have zest and enthusiasm you attract zest and enthusiasm. Life does give back in kind.” Norman Vincent Peale
At Mindful Presenter we call that energy ‘zest’. The key to tapping into it and giving it to your audience is:
Belief – ‘You can have the most compelling content and stunning visuals in the world but they account for very little if you don’t believe your own message.’
Focus – ‘Crafting a presentation which focuses exclusively on your audience will help you to avoid all other distractions allowing you to speak with zest and power.’
Gratitude – ‘When you take a moment to pause, breathe and reflect on what a privilege it is to speak, everything changes’
Generosity – ‘One of the most beautiful, endearing and energising traits that great presenters have is generosity; they love to give.’
Variety – ‘A presentation of the facts on its own is arguably boring. Your audience want and need more, much more.’
“Are you sitting comfortably?
When I was a small boy, I remember listening to a radio programme called ‘Listen with Mother’. It was a programme in which stories were read to children and every episode began with, “Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin”.
Have you ever sat through a business presentation where the speaker turned their back to you to read their slides out aloud? While they were reading, you were also reading them for yourself at the same time?
An article in Inc.com the author Jason Aten writes ‘Nothing kills a presentation faster than reading off a deck of slides.’
He offers 3 simple but powerful tips:
– Use stories instead of bullet points
– Show instead of tell
– Look at your audience not your slides
The mindful presenter adopts a practice when using visuals of ensuring slides are:
– Image rather than text based
– Designed like bill boards rather than documents
– Focused on one idea per slide; no more
The mindful presenter has a clear definition of what a bad habit is when it comes to presenting and public speaking.
‘It’s anything the presenter says or does repeatedly, to the point of distraction’.
It’s easy to spot when you see it. That’s because it becomes a major distraction and source of frustration. Often, your audience end up counting the habit.
A common example is ‘filler words’ such as “ums, ahs, and ers”. Then of course we have, “and so”, “you know”, or “I think”.
The solution to eliminating these filler words is to practice slowing down, pausing and taking a breath. This Harvard article ‘Tips on Public Speaking: Eliminating the Dreaded “Um”’ shares more.
The mindful presenter will:
– Listen to a recording of themselves speaking
– Get feedback from someone they trust
– Practice reading out loud and pausing after each sentence
– Slow down
– Keep their sentences short
– Not try to eliminate them completely – that’s unrealistic pressure
You don’t sound so sure
Uptalk is that annoying tendency to end statements with an upward inflection. It makes you sound more like you’re asking a question when you’re not. It’s not just a big issue, it’s become an epidemic.
Ordinarily, when used occasionally in a one to one conversation, it’s not a huge issue.
Listening to this manner of speaking in a 20- or 30-minute business presentation can be quite painful. The BBC reported on the issue several years ago but sadly it’s become incredibly contagious. The reason it is so troublesome today is because you can be an expert in your field but when you speak in this way, it can make you sound uncertain and challenges your credibility. I also wrote about this some time ago in my article, ‘Public Speaking & Presenting: Today’s Worst Habit’.
The solution is similar to that offered to presenters challenged with ‘filler words’:
– Listen to a recording of yourself speaking
– Get feedback from someone you trust
The mindful presenter understands the value and power of movement when speaking. Movement is energy and creates visual stimulation but only if it’s mindful and meaningful.
One of the distracting bad habits we often seen in our public speaking courses is speakers swaying from side to side or pacing up and down.
Not only is this highly disturbing it can make an audience feel sick too.
Suzannah Baum rated this in her top 3 offenders of public speaking in her article posted in the Huffington Post.
At Mindful Presenter, we coach our clients to connect to the ground beneath them before they attempt to connect with themselves, or their audience.
– Standing tall and firm
– Bending your knees slightly and gently squeezing your feet in your shoes
– Feeling and connecting with the ground under your feet
Please don’t ever let anyone tell you to keep your hands still, in your pockets or to not move them too much. Remember, the mindful presenter premise; ‘Movement is energy and creates visual stimulation’.
Your hands want to speak for themselves and they will move as much or as little as they choose to. You don’t have to talk to them, program them or even practice moving them. All you have to do is take the ‘handcuffs’ off and set them free.
If your hands are in your pockets, behind your back or clasped in front of you, it’s like they are handcuffed. You have to set them free.
David Robson ends his article written for the BBC with, ‘Let your hands do the talking, and you might just find that the words take care of themselves’
The mindful presenter understand that anyone can tell a story. Our challenge as speakers is to not simply tell our story but to show it too. We can’t do that with the ‘handcuffs’ on.
Some presenters will hold onto and fidget with a pen, remote control, notepad, lanyard, etc.
The mindful presenter understands that one of their first challenges is to ensure that the moment they stand or sit to speak, there is nothing in their hands. If there is, you can be sure they will play with it.
They also know that if there is something in close proximity to them that they could pick up, then they will. The second challenge is to remove any temptations.
Whether it’s a pen, pencil, remote, notes or just the back of a chair, it may feel comforting to you but is quite discomforting to your audience.
If twisting a ring on your finger makes you comfortable, take that off before you speak.
Let it go!
The late starter
Most presenters understand the importance of opening their presentation with impact. When we ask them how long they have to capture an audience’s attention most will quote a number under sixty seconds. Despite that awareness, many of those presenters continue to open their presentations with:
‘Good morning, my name is John Smith, I’m the Commercial Director at ABC ltd. We’ve been established for 30 years, have 6 locations across the UK, making 3 million of the highest quality widgets each year with excellent customer service’.
It’s boring and forgettable.
The mindful presenter is aware of the fact that they have to work much harder to catch their audience’s attention, interest and curiosity. They are familiar with the ‘Primacy Effect’ which suggests that an audience is likely to remember something that is stated early on in a presentation. I’ve written many articles on how to grab your audiences attention with impact; here are a few ideas in, ‘Presenters – Grab it like you mean it: Their attention.’
It’s not about theatre or entertainment, it is about challenging the status quo and opening with impact.
The damp firework
The lack of energy and creativity some speaker invest in the way they open their presentation, is often replicated in the way they close.
Far too many presentations fizzle out like a damp firework, leaving their audience indifferent, confused or simply unenamoured. As well as creating a high impact first impression, the mindful presenter knows that they have to create a lasting impression. The flip side of the primacy effect is the ‘Recency Effect’, meaning that your audience will remember something that comes more recently; the closing.
Here are the ‘6 Big Mistakes Presenters Make When Closing’.
Don’t save your damp fireworks for the end of your presentation.
The corporate spokesperson
I’ve saved one of the most common bad public speaking habits as the last. It’s a myth that the audience’s want to see a slick, memorised, polished presenter.
What most people want to see and hear is someone who knows what they are talking about and speaking about it in a way that is real. They want credibility and authenticity.
Anyone can be a ‘corporate spokesperson’ but it’s often a generic, tedious and lacklustre way of speaking. The mindful presenter understands that the route to authenticity is based on 6 important qualities as shared in, ‘6 Qualities of Authentic Public Speakers and Presenters’:
– Self-awareness – Authenticity must begin with understanding who that ‘self’ really is.
– Security – The awareness that no one is really trying to judge us or trip us up they simply need our help as we need theirs.
– Selflessness – The presenter made it all about you, not them.
– Honesty – It’s the most important thing to presenters
– Emotional – Being able to express your feelings as well as simply feel them
– Mindful – Being fully present, aware and in tune with your audience.
There is no question that bad publics speaking habits can ruin good presentations. Habits are not easy to break, they present a challenge to all of us but taking as much advice as you can from these 20 will serve you extremely well.
If you have a few bad public speaking habits and need a little help:
– 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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