The two biggest mistakes speakers make are:
1 – thinking they can speak
2 – thinking they can’t speak.
(There are a few other mistakes, but these are the ones I encounter most often).
Speakers in category #1 generally think “Hey I can do that. How difficult could it possibly be?” They are the narcissistic speakers. Because they can verbalize, they assume they can automatically inspire an audience to do their bidding.
Speakers in category #2 are generally thinking “Please God, let the earth swallow me up.” These are the speakers incapacitated by nerves. They just want the whole experience to go away as quickly as possible. They, too, are narcissistic – because they’re focused, albeit negatively, on themselves.
Both speakers have something else in common… the root of their speaking mistake. They do not understand that speaking is a performance art. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about making better widgets or a driving a philosophical shift in your company’s vision, it’s all performance.
The two biggest elements in performance art are the performer’s body/voice and his/her relationship to the audience. Like any artist, you have to get these elements right before you can get the results you want.
So here are some tips to eliminate the two biggest speaking mistakes:
Have the right mindset. Understand every speech or presentation IS a performance. Use gestures and spoken words that will be understandable to your audience. Figure out their needs as well as who they are – gender, ages, occupations, etc.
Put in the effort. Often the narcissistic speaker has no idea of how much work went into making a speech look effortless. Nervous speakers don’t do enough work rehearsing to get rid of their nerves. I read once that you have to rehearse till you’re thoroughly sick and tired of your presentation. Then you will wow your audience. Any art takes time and effort. Speaking is no different. Work on it till you can do it in your sleep. It’s a lot of effort, but the results make it worthwhile.
Focus on the audience. Stop thinking about yourself and your speaking skills. That’s not what it’s all about. It’s about them, the audience. You owe them the best performance you can give because they’re giving you the greatest gift of all – their undivided attention. Don’t abuse it.
Halina St James takes the worry out of presentations with her Present Like a Pro video training course. It’s available now from the Podium Coaching online store, together with her popular TalkitOut: From Fears to Cheers e-book and workbook.