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Public Speaking: 10 Deadly Sins & Redemption

by Ken Bradford

THOU SHALT NOT

1. MESS UP FIRST IMPRESSIONS BY

Walking to the front like a condemned prisoner, where each step is a conclusion.
Remedy — Don’t run, but advance confidently like you “know the answer,” not like you’re the latest victim.
Letting your first utterance be “huh” or “well huh.”
Remedy — Say something else, anything else that doesn’t sound like you’re surprised to be there.
Pulling at your pants like they’re reluctant to come with you.
Remedy — Your focus needs to be on your message and connecting with your audience not your wardrobe. Where the eye goes, the mind flows.

2. DATA DUMP

No one ever said, “It was a great presentation, but too short!”
Multiple slides can turn into a book. Few like being read to for very long.
Remedy — Put slides on a diet. Ask yourself if a brief story, prop, salient statistic, or fitting quote could convey the next point better than another slide.

3. MULTI-TASK

Showing a text-burdened slide or referring to a wordy handout while speaking.
Remedy — If you want people to pay attention to a slide or handout, pause.
Texting and driving is dangerous, so is speaking while expecting listeners to read.

4. IGNORE THE AUDIENCE’S MOST MAJOR QUESTION

Remedy — They want to know: What’s in it for them? Tell them.
Know the payoff: why your audience is willing to come and listen to you.
If you can answer this question, you can tailor-make your message to them and reach them in a very personal way.

5. BURY YOUR POINT

Remedy — Use signal phrases like “What’s important here” or “This can’t be overemphasized” or “I’d like to conclude with this thought” to focus peoples’ attention on the most important parts of your message.

6. LACK EXAMPLES

If you’re missing examples — your audience could be missing the point.
Good examples paint vivid mental pictures. Not only do they tell, they sell.
“Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.”
— Mark Twain

7. MAKE POOR EYE CONTACT

We speak to people through our eyes. Eye contact is just as important when speaking to groups as it is one on one.
Remedy — Volunteer to introduce a speaker, lead a meeting, or head a committee. Previous negative experiences taught us to dodge what was painful. Gaining enough new, emotionally positive speaking incidents will eventually outweigh old pains.
Fears are hurts that roost in the nest of our memories. — Robert Schuller

8. IGNORE YOUR AUDIENCE

Customers buy more.
Employees work harder.
People learn more when they are involved.
Remedy — Include the audience. It’s as simple as asking instead of always telling, then listening intently to anything offered in earnest. Showing respect earns respect and cooperation back.

9. MAKE REPETIOUS GESTURES

Monotonous gesturing is tortuous, like watching a band leader conduct a two-note song.  
Remedy — When not using your hands, let them rest. When they are truly resting, they hang down from your shoulders at your sides, not clutched in front or behind.

10. GO OVERTIME WITHOUT LISTENERS’ CONSENT

For every minute past the time allotted, subtract two points from audience morale. If they can’t trust you with their time, why should they trust you with anything else?
Remedy — Practice! Speak your talk out loud and time it. Never let the first delivery be with the real audience.

REDEMPTION
Avoiding these ten sins won’t guarantee a standing ovation, but they will help you
hold attention, persuade, and convince listeners their time was well spent. They’ll reward you with encouragement.

So go... speak... and hopefully sin no more.

Ken Bradford, author of Fearless & Persuasive Speaking, A Communication Guide For Leaders, facilitates a nationwide leadership program for non-profit trade associations. Members nominate participants to attend the annual speaking training. www.http://leaderscourse.com/Associations/ChapterBuilder.htm
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