05 Oct 3 Common Mistakes Speakers Make
How to avoid disaster on the stage, change minds and hearts, and achieve what you want at your next public speaking engagement
You may already know that most people are scared of public speaking.
Many surveys over the years revealed that public speaking is one of the most feared human acts. For many people, it’s scarier than torture, snakes, spiders…
You might have already experienced it yourself or heard from people close to you how scary it is.
I can attest. I still remember my first public speech in the early 90s.
It was a sunny Saturday morning in my hometown Harar, which is over 500 KM away from the capital city of Ethiopia- Addis Ababa.
The conference room was jampacked. More than our expectations, the youth of our village responded positively to our delight as organizers.
Two weeks earlier, a few of my peers and I decided to form a youth association. We drafted the establishment document, and I was tasked to present it.
Why was I chosen? Were they all afraid to speak? I’m not sure about that. But one thing was clear after I had ‘presented’. I was the only clown to dare and step on a stage without practice 😊
My job was to convince as many of our peers as possible to join the youth association.
Before then, I never spoke publicly. I had been good at talking to people one-on-one and in small groups. Partly, I’d (and still have) a preference for introversion. For the record, many people don’t believe me when I tell them that I’m an introvert.
Thinking it would be a piece of cake, I didn’t prepare that much. I only rehearsed my presentation a few times.
My overconfidence shattered when the time came for me to step on the stage. Sitting there, I was shaken and didn’t want to stand up. But, did I have a choice? No! I didn’t want to embarrass my team.
When I stepped on the platform, I quickly scanned the room (a rookie mistake) like a rat that stumbled upon a cat. I wondered why all eyes were staring at me… What was I expecting?! People are supposed to stare at you when you stand and speak in their midst.
Like a deer caught in the headlights, I froze and couldn’t spell a word. I forgot what I was supposed to say.
The room was quiet, and you could hear a pin drop.
It felt like an eternity- but it might have been not more than 30 seconds.
I was tempted to run away and hide during that dreadful brief moment.
Luckily, I somehow stayed on the stage and mumbled for a few minutes until I regained confidence.
Finally, I cut my presentation short and left the stage, vowing never to return to this public speaking business.
Well, within a few weeks, I dealt with the shame, regrouped, and had another opportunity to present; the rest was history.
By the way, if I had run away that day, you wouldn’t have heard of me. I’m glad my younger self stood his ground regardless of feeling embarrassed, trembling, and sweating.
As you can see from the pic on the left side, within a few years, I became the AAU students’ union president, the largest university in my native country.
The opportunity allowed me to stand and speak in front of thousands of students and appear for interviews on major national TV and Radio programs. I became a youth celebrity, and people began recognizing me in public (this is one of the benefits of becoming a public speaker 🙂
Today, I can speak in front of any audience and speak impromptu. What is more? I’ve been coaching, mentoring, and training other speakers at some government agencies, corporations, and community organizations in the US and abroad.
One of my favorite gigs is empowering others to rock it on the stage when they pitch or make high stake public speaking.
Part of the reason is that the opportunity to help other speakers gives me a chance to refresh my memory about the fundamentals. When you advance in your public speaking, you focus on high-end speaking competencies such as storytelling, platform selling, and other advanced skills.
As a result, sometimes you may forget some basic speaking principles you teach others to adhere. So often, I caught myself returning to some of the bad habits I’d already dropped.
Why am I sharing this with you? Simple. Like Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “All great speakers were bad speakers at first.” What does that mean to you? Start somewhere if you have not yet and begin this rewarding journey regardless of how bad a speaker you may think.
Like other skills you learned, you can also learn public speaking if you desire to change minds, hearts, and achieve what you want.
By the way, I don’t love public speaking! But I don’t have a choice! To get the full context of why I said what I just said, click here and check out my recent blog. I’m:
- Passionate about my mission in life.
- Indebted to the past, this, and future generations.
- Obliged to contribute my fair share toward the survival and triumph of humanity.
I wouldn’t have enjoyed the transformations I have been experiencing if it weren’t for other people before me.
It’d be selfish and ungrateful of me if I refrain from speaking the truth I came to encounter, the wisdom I gained, and the experiences I’ve got over the years…
By the way, speaking is one of the highest-paying skills though it comes with high entry (fear) and maintenance (practice) costs- both of which are worth paying since you’ll get your ROI back exponentially.
So, unless you want to be no one, nothing, and avoid responsibility to serve the world around you with your passion, talent, gifting, wisdom, and experience, you better deal with your public speaking fear. As I recently said in my blog, shutting mouth leads to shutting destiny. Click here and check it out when you get a chance.
However, overcoming fear is a start of a very protracted journey…
Though many people conquered the fear of public speaking long ago, they aren’t intentional and proactively working on their speaking craft consistently. They keep on making so many mistakes without even knowing it.
Many assume that because they can now hold a mic and step on a platform to speak, they can change minds and hearts, and achieve what they want. They don’t maximize every speaking opportunity they get to get rid of some mistakes.
One quick disclaimer. We all make mistakes. It is impossible to be a mistake-free speaker. However, the mistakes I’m talking about are avoidable with minimal investment and effort.
Yes, I beat the fear of speaking a couple of decades ago, but I was a lousy speaker for many years.
I don’t want you to spend years without recognizing some of the common mistakes.
Nonetheless, in this short blog, it’ll be too ambitious of me if I attempt to share with you all the mistakes you should avoid to become a pro speaker.
By avoiding just these three mistakes, you can immediately see a massive improvement in your public speaking.
1. Giving more preparation time for long speeches, allocating less time for shorter speeches. Many speakers make a mistake by directly correlating presentation time with the amount of time they take to prepare. They don’t realize that, when it comes to shorter speeches, the stake is high. It takes having high impact from the get-go and recognizing that there is no chance to recover from any stumbling.
When President Woodrow Wilson was asked how long it took to prepare his speeches, he chuckled and said: “That depends on the length of the speech. If it is a 10-minute speech, it takes me all of two weeks to prepare it. If it is a half hour speech, it takes me a week. If I can talk as long as I want to, it requires no preparation at all. I am ready now.” Your 10 minutes speech may not have the consequences of a ten-minute speech of a President. You may not need two weeks to prepare, but you should give it more time than you may give to a 2-hour or a full-day presentation.
2. Beginning with high impact, finishing with mediocre closing, and vice versa. Some speakers launch the speech with high tone and finish with a weak closing. Others struggle to have a steady take-off but regain energy down the road and close strong.
Unfortunately, in this century where your audience has a short attention span, if you lost them from the get-go, you’d be losing them forever. Regaining their attention is almost impossible, especially if your speech is short.
Likewise, it doesn’t matter if you had an outstanding start if you fail to finish strong, go beyond the finish line, change minds and hearts, and attain your objectives.
Thus, be mindful, be ‘present’, and manage your energy throughout your speech proactively and intentionally to back up your words with the right tonality and emotion.
3. Ignoring or casually treating the Q&A session. Many speakers dread the Q&A session while some wing it. Either way, they lose big time.
You could rock it on the stage and finish your speech with high notes. Sadly, it ONLY takes one question or objection or hackling to ruin your entire speech…
You better strategize, anticipate tough questions and objections, and master your ability to handle the Q&A session with tact. You shouldn’t treat it as an afterthought but rather as a critical part of your entire speech.
Which mistake have you been making so far?
If you’re still with me means you’re someone who desires to excel in your public speaking.
Therefore, I’ll share with you a couple of links if you’re interested in diving further deep…
It should not take you years, as it took me and many other speakers, to speak like a pro at your first or next public speech. You can cut the learning curve short and stop winging it. From NOW on, you can step on the stage to rock it and have an undeniable impact…
Below are some resources and opportunities I offer you and your team:
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