Public speaking can bring out the best in a person, specifically when they nail a killer presentation or speech. On the other hand, public speaking can also bring about some major nerves, making the speaker stammer and bring about unwanted mannerisms.

With conference season in full swing, it’s important to brush up on the all-too-important public speaking skills, and know the top five downfalls to avoid when giving a speech.

  1. Distracting Mannerisms

We’ve all had at least some of these happen to us before: pacing back and forth, fidgeting with pens or your hands, adjusting your hair, gripping the lectern. This list could go on and on. While these habits may come natural to someone who’s nervous to speak, they can be extremely distracting for the audience as they’ll focus on your mannerisms rather than your message.

“As a remedy, record yourself speaking and watching the playback,” explains Jacquelyn Smith from Business Insider. “Practice often to increase your comfort level and reduce anxiety. Take a public speaking class or enlist the help of a local coach to eliminate distracting mannerisms and habituate purposeful movement.”

  1. Sudden Exclamations

“An exclamation is a sudden interjection, often expressing surprise, anger, or hesitation,” says Niti Shah, a blogger at Hubspot. “Those first two are alright, but when you’re speaking, you’re most often inserting exclamations in that last category—  hesitation. This can make you come off as unsure, unprepared, or nervous.”

Examples of these sudden exclamations are using “um”, “uh”, “ah”, and “er”. The good news is that when you’re practicing, these words are easy to catch so you can train yourself to avoid them in the future.

  1. Not Practicing Enough

You need to practice your presentation or speech multiple times; once isn’t enough. It’s important to know your material front to back because giving a presentation while thinking on your feet is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.

“Experience speakers will often do a dry run of their material with a trusted audience of friends, family, or colleagues,” explains Terry Gault of Prezi Blog. “They will simulate the environment of their presentation using a projector and slide remote. They’ll choreograph their movements and gestures which will dramatically increase your ability to remember your material. They recognize areas of challenge and come up with tricks and tactics to help them flow seamlessly through their material.”

  1. Data Overkill

Data can be imperative towards making valid points about your speech’s topic, but too much can literally be overkill.

“When we rely too heavily on this type of content, we end up talking too long, readying too many overcrowded illegible slides, and turning our back on the most important element of all: the audience,” states Smith. “Ditch the habit of data dumping. It loses the audience and undermines your innate ability to inspire, connect, and persuade.”

  1. Taking Yourself Too Seriously

Presentations and speeches are important and should be taken seriously, but not too seriously. Audiences are looking for someone who is authentic and natural, which makes their speech more engaging.

“If you defer too much to your audience, you are project that you are not of equal stature,” explains Gault, a contributor for Prezi Blog. “Respect the audience’s professionalism but relate to their humanity informally. By speaking to them more informally, you project that you are equal. They will read that as confidence.”

Public speaking is hard if you’re not already a pro at giving speeches and presentations or feel comfortable doing so. To ensure that you’ll deliver an excellent speech each time, avoid these five habits and practice your speech again and again!


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