5 Common Public Speaking Disasters (And How To Avoid Them)

public speakerThis article is contributed by Shannon Carter.

Many people, even those that are confident in other aspects of their lives, deal with a fear of public speaking. When you are in the spotlight, addressing an audience, it is easy to be nervous or worry constantly that anything could go wrong at any moment.

Many people become so nervous that they stutter or forget what they were trying to say. However, these things can be largely avoided if you make the effort to prepare and practice what you are going to say.

Also, it is important to avoid common mistakes that can ruin the effect of your speech. The following is a list of 5 major mistakes people commonly make while making speeches in public.

1.  Do Not Make Excuses

Many speakers start by apologizing in advance to their audiences about things that may go wrong with their speeches. They tend to either give excuses for being too tired or frazzled to give a perfect speech or let the audience know to expect some stuttering, forgetfulness, or other gaffes. However, all this really does is undermine your credibility with the audience.

They may even feel like they cannot trust you or what you have to say; after all, if you are so fallible that you actually have to make a point of warning the audience of it before you address them, why should they believe anything that you have to say to them?

2. Do Not Be Long

Try as hard as you can not to be long-winded. In many situations, the members of your audience are sitting in seats that are very uncomfortable, and would like to get up and leave as soon as possible. They do respect what you are saying, but it will do nothing but irritate them if you drag it out needlessly.

This may be difficult if you are very knowledgeable about the topic on which you are speaking, but plan beforehand and figure out what the most important points on the topic are. Stick to the highlights, and do not be redundant. It is better to finish a little early than a little late; in this case, you can give the audience an opportunity to ask questions and perhaps leave early.

3. Do Not Be Unprofessional

It is very important that you avoid unprofessional speech mannerisms that flood the daily vernacular. If you are one of the many people who naturally says “like” before every noun and adjective, the audience will focus more on that than on the content of your speech.

If you are able to do so, work with a coach and eliminate this issue, so that you do not ruin a perfectly good speech with something so superficial. At the very least, if you know you have a tendency to constantly interject things such as “like,” “um,” “uh,” or “you know” into every sentence, make sure to practice your speech multiple times so that you know it extremely well and can go through a polished version of it without the unwanted speech habits messing it up.

4. Do Not Use Profanity

Make absolutely sure not to use any profanity whatsoever. It is completely inappropriate in a professional setting and especially in a speaking forum. There are rare exceptions, such as a sports coach addressing his team or a stand up comedy act; however, in most cases of public speaking, swear words are one of the worst things that could enter your speech.

Sometimes, people use these words accidentally, either because it is so ingrained into their daily speech that it just feels natural, or out of frustration when something goes wrong. In these cases, members of the audience tend to remember the one profane word you used rather than the hour of useful, rich content that you presented. Do anything possible to avoid using this kind of language at all.

5. Do Not Write and Speak

Do not write things down as you speak if you do not know how to spell the words. Either look up the spellings of these words beforehand and have them prepared, or forego any visual presentations of words during your speech. A spelling mistake may seem fairly innocent, but it is just another way that you can lose your credibility with the audience.

The art of public speaking involves a variety of different skills. Many people who are perfectly capable of presenting an excellent speech have failed at doing so, largely due to mistakes like the ones listed above. Follow the above list, polish your presentation, and your speech should turn out just fine.

Author Bio: Shannon Carter is an experienced public speaker and often travels to events to help others with their speaking. She also holds several online classes geared towards both the novice and veteran speakers.

Photo credit: public speaker image courtesy of Jason Pier in DC via photopin cc

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