Bad public speaking is physical torture to listeners. I’ve done my fair share of it and received a lot of feedback over the years! In the process I’ve gone from being pretty horrible at speaking in public, to feeling really comfortable and winning Speaker of the Year Awards at my local Toastmasters (public speaking) club. I’ve still got a long way to go but here are a few things I have learned to avoid.
Sure-fire ways to bore your crowd:
1) Start with something boring like a long introduction. DO NOT thank everyone that invited you and share your thoughts about what what you “thought when first asked to speak today”. Nobody cares. People put way too much fluff in their intros. Hop to something more interesting like a dramatic statement. Which brings me to the next point:
2) Lose their attention in the first 30 seconds. 30 seconds is all you have got. After that, people start playing with their phones or otherwise switch off.
3) Too many ums and ahs. I was (and when especially nervous, still can be) a major culprit in this area. If I hadn’t prepped enough, I would use “fillers” like ums and ahs in between my thoughts. Don’t do it. It is super annoying and will totally bore your crowd. Obama does it way too much when he talks off the cuff —- listen to any of his press conferences.
4) Use Powerpoint. Trust me on this one: you can generally do your public speaking with fewer slides. You can often completely eliminate slides. Nothing puts an audience to sleep more easily than stupid charts and bar graphs on a crooked screen in a dim room. STOP IT!
5) Too many tangents. One of the worst things you can do is forget to stick to a very clear structure with your speech. Make three points or less and then sit down. DO NOT meander through your speech, recalling random stories and factoids. People will hate you for it.
6) Neglect to chop your material in half. Less is better guys!! I sometimes get way over-earnest and try to fit in every little point I could possibly make on a topic. This is obnoxious. People will never remember your huge list. As with #5, stick to the bare essentials and be brutal about cutting the fat.
7) Thank people at the end. One of the WORST things you can do in a public speech is say “thank you” at the end. It may seem like the polite thing to do but it does not add anything helpful to your speech. It is a boring, standard, crappy way to finish. Be dramatic instead. End on a challenge or a rousing quote. Surprise people.
Last thing: If you want to change the world around you, public speaking is a great way to do it. Nobody is born a great public speaker so get all the practice you can. And don’t be boring.