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Top 5 Public-Speaking Mistakes to Avoid

Updated: May 18, 2021

Whether you’re a student, an employee, a homemaker or the boss of a company, you’ve had to stand in front of someone and talk about something! Congratulations, you are or have been a Public-Speaker in a variable capacity. Now, whether that experience was good or bad or if you’re planning on being a regular when it comes to pubic-speaking, I don’t know! Irrespective of that, here are some pointers about mistakes to avoid when speaking in front of an audience!

1. Looking at the wall ahead and not making eye contact-

During our school days, we were told to look at the wall in front of us while reciting poems or project work, etc. This was a strategy told to us to so that the effects of stage-fright could be reduced, so that we wouldn’t get distracted by our classmates and make mistakes, etc. As good and easy as that sounds, that strategy has led to a whole bunch of grown ups that lack the ability to connect to an audience, keep them hooked and engaged, captivate them or sound even remotely interesting. This leads to ‘dead’ public-speaking.

Eye-Contact is an absolute must when speaking to an audience, however big or small. Pan your eyes all over the crowd. This will make your speech come alive, generate interest in the listener and keep them attentive. It is difficult to implement from the get go if you’ve been a consistent wall-starer, but start off with: half a sentence = eye contact with one person, then shift.

2. Moving too much or too little-

Extremes are always bad. If you deliver your talk without moving so much as a limb, you’re going to convey that you’re petrified with fear. But if you move and fidget constantly, you’re going to give the audience a neck cramp.

First, assess how much space you have…bigger the space, larger should be the movement and vice-versa. Keep your pace slow and steady, calm and professional. Use hand-gestures to support your dialogues. Shift weight from one leg to the other in case of a space crunch. Don’t become a statue, but don’t move like you have ants up your pant either!

3. Not practicing out loud/practicing in your mind only-

You may have recited your script in your mind a thousand times, but the final performance was still not up to the mark. You wonder why and think to yourself, “Maybe I’m just not meant to be a public-speaker!”. The truth is, unless you practice out loud, you are not going to know how it really sounds. So first, practice in your mind. Then, stand in front of the mirror and read it out loud. Then, switch on the camera and record yourself. Filming yourself gives you the kind of feedback that you get from someone actually watching you! Unless you do this regularly till you get the hang of speaking effectively, you’re always going to doubt if you’re cut out for speaking in front of people!

4. Reading off of the script the whole time-

It is absolutely necessary to have a script in front of you while public-speaking. But if you speak with your nose buried in the paper, not only are you missing out on Point No. 1 from this write-up, but you’re also exposing yourself to the risk of missing a line accidently and then not being able to continue or the light above your podium going off and again not being able to continue, etc.

So, while practicing at home, learn to speak without having to look at the script all the time. Learn to memorize. Also, most importantly, get into the habit of having only the bullet points on your script, and not huge paragraphs that would give you no quick pointers when needed.

5. Preparing only for a limited script/not researching enough for backup thoughts-

If you’ve prepared your script by first researching the topic, kudos to you! But if you’ve researched only just enough for the script, you could be taking a big chance. There is always a possibility that you could forget a point or two or someone from the audience could ask you a question relating to your topic but off your script, etc. What are you going to do in that case? As a public-speaker, you must always have backup points tucked away into your sleeve (metaphorically). If you need only five points in your speech, you should still be prepared with ten, just in case.

So that’s it folks, a few simple yet crucial points to remember to avoid those pesky common mistakes. Remember though, each mistake is a learning opportunity, so never give up or get disheartened. Public-Speaking is a challenging endeavour, but the satisfaction is immeasurable!

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